Post updated at 1:12 p.m. Friday, Aug, 19:
One of the defining features of the Lawrence Public Library’s Kids’ Action Club is that it allows kids to put ideas into action. Its latest project is a fundraiser for Ukraine.
“We are putting on an art auction and bake sale,” 10-year-old Hayden Gunter said. “I want to help Ukraine because my friend Mila is from Ukraine. I want people to have food, shelter and medical attention during this difficult time.”
KAC members, ages 8-12, have crafted Ukraine-inspired artwork for a silent auction. Their work — as well as the work of several local artists — is for sale and on display in the library atrium until Friday, Aug. 19, when final bids will be cast at a reception from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the library auditorium.
Members of KAC are also preparing baked goods — cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies and a bundt cake — for a bake sale that coincides with the library’s Last Bash, set for 7 to 10 p.m Saturday, Aug. 20 at the library. In addition to the bake and art sale, the Last Bash includes an outdoor showing of “Luca,” as well as vendors and live music from a band called Soundwave LFK.
Patrons of the Last Bash can also purchase postcards and prints of the KAC members’ original artwork to support the Ukraine fundraiser.
At Friday’s reception, someone from Ukraine who lives in Lawrence will speak about their family’s experience with the Russia-Ukraine War.
“They will talk about their family and talk about the situation and how aid is so important to help the people in Ukraine right now,” children’s librarian Jenny Cook said.
The fundraiser for Ukraine is a fusion of the children’s passions, Cook said.
“They love making art and … they were concerned about the people in Ukraine, so it was a nice fit of their interests.”
An offshoot of a previous club called Kid President, Kids’ Action Club has been around since the pandemic took root. Based on social outreach and creativity, the club solidified as its own separate thing in October 2020 and was entirely virtual.
At the time, Sara Gillum’s sons, Ian, 6, and Owen, 10, both active in the club now, were so overloaded with screens, they showed no interest in participating.
“I tried and tried to get my kids into it, but I think with distance learning they were just so burnt out … I could not get them to do anything more with screens,” Gillum said. “I was really excited when I realized, oh my gosh, they’re meeting in person now, and we can go and be face-to-face with other kids.”
Her sons have been attending all summer, and what Gillum loves about the club is that it’s almost entirely kid-led. Cook floated the idea to help Ukraine for this event, but that level of adult involvement is an anomaly.
“When I take the kids to the club I always think I’m going to sit on the side and read a book or something and I always, always find myself listening in and paying attention because … Jenny does such a good job letting the kids lead the group and letting the kids decide what’s going to be best,” Gillum said. “ … She facilitates their ideas rather than just lead them through an activity she thinks they should do.”
Even though Cook suggested an idea this time, the kids took her suggestion and made it their own.
“I think the way they’re going about it is fantastic,” Gillum said. “You know, you don’t always think of an art and a bake sale going together, but once again, with kids running the show and leading things, that’s what they came up with … and so that’s what’s gonna happen.”
Gillum’s sons are going to make cinnamon rolls with their grandmother for Saturday’s bake sale. According to Owen, the Kids’ Action Club allows him to enhance his own life as well as the lives of others.
“I like Kids’ Action Club because we get to meet new people, we get to help people everywhere and most of all I just like making things with friends,” he said.
Hayden Gunter’s mother, Jena Gunter, believes the KAC helps her son make an impact on the Lawrence community and beyond.
“KAC is such a great way for kids to be more active in our community and do so in ways they feel they are making an impact,” she said. “This fundraiser (is) important to show support to the crisis that is currently happening in Ukraine. It’s been so eye-opening to see the kids so engaged in this effort and the thought and resources they (have) dedicated to raising funds.”
Cook wants the club to empower kids to do the cool things they naturally want to do anyway, so they can help others.
“They come in and they’re … very caring. They start to feel more empowered as they stay in the group and see that the ideas they have can be brought into reality and can make a difference,” Cook said. “When kids feel like they can make a change in the community, it’s powerful for them, it’s good for their well-being, in addition to being good for the community. … It’s wonderful for me, and it’s wonderful for the community to see it.”
The next Kids’ Action Club meeting is set for Sept. 7. Find details at this link.
Update: Here’s the full lineup of events planned for the Last Bash, set for 7 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, courtesy of Kathleen Morgan, the library’s director of development and community partnerships.
“The Last Bash will be particularly over-the-top this year, not only with a movie on the Lawn, but also a special ribbon cutting to launch Dottie, the library’s new outreach vehicle,” Morgan said.
- Minsky’s pizza — Free while pizza lasts
- Dot’s Pretzels — Free and provided by Pretzels Inc.
- Free State brews — Bring money and look for their tent
- First ever library flyover — Thanks to Derek Rogers and his airplane!
- Ribbon cutting — Come say hi and tour Dottie, LPL Outreach’s new mini library
- Soundwave music — Live jams from this local alt, funk, jam, pop, punk, rock group
- Art show and bake sale — Ukraine benefit organized by our super LPL Kids’ Action Club
- Giveaways — McGrew Real Estate is bringing some freebies
- Prizes — For Summer Reading finishers
- Free sunset — Watch nature do its thing and settle in
- Movie: Luca — When it’s dark enough to see the screen, we’ll press play
- PS — Please leave your pets at home … thank you!
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Chansi Long (she/her), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, has a bachelor of science in mass media from Baker University and a master’s in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. She’s been published in the Washington Post, River Teeth and Brevity. She was honored to be named Kansas Writer of the Year by the Winfield Arts and Humanities Council in 2016 for her essay “Lovesick.”
Read more of her work for the Times here.