Olivia Kutz has a folder that’s overflowing with colored-pencil sketches.
Pictures of mermaids, sorcerers and dragons spill out onto the floor when she opens it.
“I draw maybe five times a day,” said Olivia, who is 10. “Mostly dragons.”
Despite her enthusiasm and years of drawing experience, Olivia has never won any recognition for her work.
That will change Saturday when Belk department store – with help from Santa Claus – announces at its Cary Towne Center store that Olivia has won the inaugural “Belkie Charity Bear” design contest.
Belk typically sells a festive teddy bear during the holiday season. Last year, the company decided to allow a child to design this year’s bear as part of a drawing competition.
Contestants were asked to simply color in a print-out of Belk’s standard teddy bear and return it to one of the stores.
With encouragement from her grandmother, Marvine Coleman, a self-described “Belk-a-holic,” Olivia was one of more than 1,000 children ages 4 to 11 from 16 states to submit a design.
Belk informed Olivia’s parents, Teri and Bjorn Kutz, in January that Olivia had won the contest, but instructed them to keep it a secret until November.
“It was so hard,” Teri Kutz said. “We wanted to tell everyone.”
They broke the news to Olivia two weeks ago. Olivia couldn’t believe it.
“I got really, really excited,” Olivia said.
“She went berserk,” Coleman said.
Bears were not even a part of her art portfolio, she said, until she entered the contest. She says anime, a Japanese style of animation, is her biggest influence. She has entered logo design contests at her school, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic School in Cary.
But last fall, she gave bears a try when she entered the Belk contest. She needed about an hour to complete the drawing and got a little help from her 9-year-old sister, Abigail, Coleman recalled.
Olivia’s bear wears a green sweater with a candy cane emblazoned on the front and a giftbox on the right sleeve. The fifth-grader doesn’t remember what inspired her design.
“I like candy canes,” she said.
For her prize, Olivia will receive 10 of the Belkie Bears she designed and $500 in Belk store credit. She also was allowed to pick a charity to receive $5 of each Belkie Charity Bear purchase. The bears cost $14.99.
Kutz picked the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, known as the ASPCA.
The choice came as no surprise to her parents.
“She saves all the bugs at school and even carries the spiders in our house to safety outside,” Teri Kutz said.
Kutz, a perky girl with a silly sense of humor, said she has no problem helping animals of all shapes and sizes. She takes a serious tone when talking about them.
“Animals can’t really speak for themselves,” she said. “They don’t have the right vocal chords.”