I have an issue that I need to resolve in some way. I am seeking your advice because you are objective (not emotionally involved) and I believe you truly want to serve the Lord.
Last year, my daughter was entered into the 4-H county fair. She did a sewing project among other things. She was seven and the sewing project was tough -- so I helped her a lot with it. I was reading the 4-H rules the other day and I noticed that they read that the entrant is supposed to be able to complete the project on their own. I did not know that the rules were that explicit (I did not read them before) or else I would not have let her enter this project. Although I think deep down I knew I helped her too much, but I knew other kids there got a lot of help too, so I guess I rationalized it. I can't remember much of it. I can't even remember how much I helped her with it. I just remember it was a lot. Well, she won Grand Champion for this sewing project and I feel really bad. I feel like we cheated. I don't know how much help you are allowed to give the child -- but I am sure I gave her too much help. The matter is compounded in that my mom was the judge of the sewing competition. She honestly did not know which project was my daughter's and chose it to win. People were whispering and seemed irritated -- as you would expect. I go over in my mind telling myself, "you should have used good judgment and not entered because you knew your mom was the judge -or- you helped her too much..."
Obviously you can't go back and change the past. However, I am not sure what to do about it now. I sat with my daughter and we talked about it. She is such a good-hearted little girl and wants to do what God wants us to do. We have since moved 2000 miles away. Should we send the awards back with an apology? Should I contact the person in charge and discuss the situation with them? Should we chalk it up to a lesson learned and just not repeat the same mistake in the future? Sending back the award will cause people to gossip about my mom - saying we feel guilty because she cheated in judging. I don't want to dishonor my mom, but if that is the right thing to do we want to do it. I have talked to my sister in Christ here and admits she has done the same thing in the past and says not to send it back but to learn the lesson and go on. My husband can see both sides and supports us in either decision.
I am sorry this is so long, I just would really love your input before I choose a coarse of action. I don't want to jump off and do something and then regret that situation as well.
Let's try to take things one at a time and decide what would have been best.
I take it that your daughter entered an event where her grandmother happened to be the sole judge. In a 4-H judging system, the judge is weighing both adherence to a standard and the age of the participant to group all entries into categories. It would be better in quality judgments to have multiple judges to eliminate natural individual bias, but it is difficult to find judges for all the events, let alone multiple judges.
Paul stated that we should strive in "providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (II Corinthians 8:21). In other words, we do the right thing and then take the extra step to eliminate any possible accusation of wrongdoing. Not that that can ever be completely eliminated, but we do what we can. We can assume that your mother did an honest job in judging the projects since she did not know which entry was your daughters. However, as you discovered, your daughter's win came under suspicion solely because she was the granddaughter of the judge. This cannot be reversed, but it should be a lesson. When family members or close friends are trying to give unbiased judgment, then it would be best not to enter for no other reason than to prevent their judgment from being questioned. If there had been a panel of judges this problem would not have surfaced. It only came about because of the relationship to the sole judge.
4-H projects are meant to be a learning experience. The child is expected to do the work, but it doesn't mean the child cannot receive instruction while doing the project. Thus if you did portions of the project for her, then that would have been wrong; but if you gave her directions and showed her how she could to the project better, then that is what 4-H wants to happen. Since you didn't state what exactly you did in helping her, I can't make a judgment on a lack of information.
From the 4-H rules, I found "4-H’ers work on projects at home with parents, siblings and other family members who can help them with their project. ... Are 4-H members expected to do their own project work? Yes, with help. Members are expected to select at least one project and complete one or more learning experiences related to the project during the year. 4-H is a "learn by doing" program. Leaders, junior leaders, and parents may tell or show members how, but members are expected to learn to do things themselves."
The question you ought to ask is "Is that your daughter's project or your project?" The amount of guidance doesn't matter. It is who did the work. From all that you said, it appears that your daughter did the work. She learned a lot from you, which is good.
Whether or not other people broke the rules doesn't matter in determining what is right or wrong and should not be considered.
If a mistake was made, should the award be sent back? The question is in what way will this fix the situation?
If you learned that your mother did know which was her granddaughter's work and cheated in her judgment, then yes, send the prize back with an explanation. But this is not the case. You are only concerned with the appearance of impropriety. In such a case, learn the lesson and manage it better in the future. To send it back when there is no evidence of cheating on your mother's part is to announce to the world that you think your mother cheated.
If you did your daughter's project for her and it was really your work being judged, then again, I would say send the prize back with an explanation. But again this is not the case. You are only concerned that you may have helped too much and I don't think this is true. To send the prize back with no evidence of cheating on your daughter's part is to announce to the world that you think your daughter cheated.
Therefore, since I don't think either your mother or daughter acted improperly, you should quit second-guessing whether the prize was deserved or not.