Earlier this year, we held a photo contest for our 2016 Community Calendar. We received numerous outstanding photos. Instead of us just choosing the final photos, we decided to open the voting up to the public on our Facebook page.

After the voting period ended, Chelsie Bonzagni’s photo of her daughter, Sophia, holding a baby goat received the most votes and was selected as the winner.

We were delighted to present Chelsie with her winning $500 airline gift card. However, before we made that presentation, we decided to find out a little more about the backstory of this winning photograph.


We discovered that Chelsie is the daughter of Jim and Susan Vavra of Amherst, Nebraska, and she lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. Chelsie’s mother Susan, a Riverdale branch customer, had seen a Facebook post for the Bank’s calendar contest and recommended that her daughter submit some photos.

Chelsie decided to submit three photos of her very photogenic, young daughter, Sophia. The winning photograph was taken on the Vavra’s farm, here in Nebraska.

“I love taking photos of Sophia and getting different personalities out of her. It’s one of my favorite things to do. She can be kind of ornery, but generally she likes being in front of the camera” said Chelsie.

When Chelsie and her family found out that her photos had been selected for the semi-finalist round, they quickly realized how beneficial the grand prize $500 airlines gift card could be for them. It could help cover some of the travel expenses for Chelsie and Sophia to make a trip back to Nebraska to visit their family for the holidays.

As the voting period commenced, Chelsie and Susan both reached out to family and friends to show their support and vote for Chelsie’s photos. After several weeks, Chelsie’s photo narrowly edged out Amber Hoffman’s runner-up photo to claim the top prize.

The Bank setup a video call to award Chelsie, her husband Derek, and daughter Sophia with their grand prize. However, Heartland Bank had a different plan in motion. Several associates at the bank decided instead of just giving the $500 airline gift card, the bank would cover the full airline and baggage costs for Chelsie and the rest of her family.

Needless to say, Chelsie and her family were very grateful for this gift. This allowed Chelsie and Sophia to travel back home to see their family over the holidays.

“It was the last thing on my mind, that this gift would be that big and really help our family out. We were just overwhelmed and very appreciative,” said Chelsie.

This trip became even more important for Chelsie when she learned of the untimely passing of her grandfather Willis G. “Bill” Schnuerle, on December 5, 2015. The trip back to Nebraska also allowed Chelsie and Sophia to attend the Celebration of Life her family had put together for her grandfather.  

“To get back around the holidays is everything. Family is everything to us,” said Chelsie.

Jameon Rush

Jameon is a freelance content producer for Optix Digital Media. He graduated from Hastings College with a degree in Web Communication Design. Jameon enjoys traveling and outdoor activities.

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