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Young Elmvale prodigy recognized for coding talents

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A 12-year-old local with autism has been recognized for his creativity and video game coding.

Kenny Parkes from Elmvale is one of nine North American winners of the Code Ninjas Prodigy Program for his ability to create a drone-themed video game.

"The recognition? I feel great," Parkes said. "I mean, just look at what this whole thing's all about."

Parkes' 'DRONESLAUGHT!' game was judged to be the best in the continental northeast section of Code Ninja's Prodigy Program.

"It's been a whirlwind of amazingness," said Ken Parkes, Kenny's father. "Code Ninjas really encouraged Kenny to (develop his game) and we're so happy we did."

Despite being diagnosed with autism, Parkes became an active member of the Autism Ontario community. His family then used the funding they received from Autism Ontario to enroll him in coding lessons with Code Ninjas in Barrie, one of over 400 Code Ninjas locations across the continent.

"Kenny struggles with a lot of social situations," said Christina Pittens, the director of Barrie's Code Ninjas location. "But he's never let it discourage him from exploring his hobbies and excelling at them."

With the skills he learned in more than three years at Code Ninjas, Parkes created the idea for his 'DRONESLAUGHT!' game.

"My game is a shooter," Parkes explained. "You have to try and shoot the 'trashers' who stole all of your inventions."

Parkes persevered through a month of coding, debugging and play-testing before bringing 'DRONESLAUGHT!' to life.

"It's a pretty fast-paced game. I think that definitely speaks to Kenny's character," Pittens explained. "He's always got so much going on. He's always at a level ten. Which is why I say he always brings the energy up in the centre."

On Saturday afternoon, Kenny had the opportunity to celebrate his contest-winning game and showcase it in front of fellow Autism Ontario community members and Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall.

"To just get that recognition and to get that confidence from the win, I think, will do Kenny so much good for the future," stated Nuttall. "We're all behind him going forward."

Parkes also won a family trip to Dallas, Texas, and he plans on making a website for his game so everyone can play it.

He hopes his passion for coding will allow him to become a full-time game developer when he grows up. 

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