The seventh annual “Ding” Darling-Theodore Cross High School Photography Contest invites high school students in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties to compete for prizes that include a Canon digital SLR camera package, chartered class trips to the refuge and copies of "Waterbirds: Portraits and Anecdotes from Birding Adventures" by contest namesake, the late Theodore Cross.

Cross, who lived part-time on Sanibel Island, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., advised the Johnson and Nixon administrations on anti-poverty programs, wrote the influential book "Black Capitalism," among others, played a prominent role in President Obama’s election and created Birders United — a birding website that ranked legislators according to their record of bird protection support.

Late in life, Cross decided to indulge his love for birds and photography and traveled the world to collect stunning portraits and stories to chronicle his adventures. He shot often at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, and a number of the images in his book reflect his love for the refuge. Cross published Waterbirds in 2009 at age 85; he passed away shortly after that in February 2010.

“The Theodore Cross Family Charitable Foundation has made possible this contest with a generous grant to the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS),” said Birgie Miller, DDWS executive director. “We couldn’t be more thrilled that they wanted their donation used in this way for a seventh year.”

“We are so happy to be supporting a contest in my father’s name, a contest that will get our youth involved with nature by looking at it — as my father so loved doing — through a camera lens,” said daughter Amanda Cross.

Digital image entries can be shot from any outdoor venue in the state of Florida. A writing component to the contest requires entrants grades 9 through 12 to submit a 100-word description of the “moment” captured and how it reflects what nature and wildlife mean to the photographer.

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