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Flamingo Flu contagious in the Springville area

SPRINGVILLE — Springville residents may start seeing pink this week, as Flamingo Flu descends on the area, courtesy of the fundraising efforts for the First Presbyterian Church and First United Methodist Church’s second annual World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine, to take place April 12 and 13.

The 30 Hour Famine is sponsored by World Vision, an organization with a stated mission of working with children, families and their communities worldwide, to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice, according to www.30hourfamine.org.

According to that organization, one child younger than the age of 5 dies from hunger-related causes every 13 seconds, for a total of more than 20,000 children, each day. Groups that participate in the 30 Hour Famine raise funds for 30 days, prior to the weekend event, held on April 12 and 13 this year. According to World Vision, during those 30 hours, teen participants sleep in cardboard boxes and undertake activities to learn more about world hunger and raise awareness about the issue.

In the Springville area, the First Presbyterian Church and First United Methodist Church kicked off fundraising efforts, by bringing up to 25 pink plastic flamingos home to roost in yards at local homes and businesses. According to a press release about the event, “Pink flamingos can be very territorial and, unless they are placed on someone else’s lawn, they will roost on the property for a very long time.”

Arianne Johnson, a famine organizer from First Presbyterian, said that the Flamingo Flu is intended to make fundraising fun for the participating teens.

“Teens exist in a digital world. They’re used to instant communication, seeing instant results,” she said. “Sure, we could do six dinners, in between now and [the famine], and they would be happy to do it, but this engages them in that particular teenage joy.”

Johnson said that she sends out a text message to the teens to see “who wants to flock” on a particular night and, dressed in all black, the group descends on an unsuspecting house with a flock of pink, plastic flamingos.

“We monkey crawl across the lawn, looking out for dogs or people in windows who might give us away,” Johnson said, with a laugh. “Even my 5-year-old loves it.”

This is the first year the 30 Hour Famine crew is spreading the Flamingo Flu, and Johnson said that she has yet to find someone who has not enjoyed it, so far. Participants can pay to send the flamingos to a friend or neighbor, and must also pay to have the birds removed, from his or her own lawn. If a household catches Flamingo Flu and wants to pass it on, a fee can be paid to send the flock to a friend, as well. For those who prefer that their lawn remain unsoiled, insurance can also be purchased to keep the birds from settling in.

“We realize that the bright, pink color of these plastic birds can be unsettling, sitting there against the white snow,” Johnson said. “In these dull, dreary days of late winter, it’s good for a giggle. We consider it a form of healthy vandalism. No one’s taking it too seriously. ”

The Flamingo Flu will be going around the area until April 11, the day before the 30 Hour Famine kicks off.

“We hope to make it an annual thing,” Johnson said. “Just like people see the purple potty and know it’s getting to be time for the relay, we want people to see the flamingos and know it’s time for the famine.”

In addition, Johnson and her youth group team has implemented a “Kiss the Cow” election at the Presbyterian Church, an idea Johnson found on the World Vision website from a youth group in Indiana.

Participants set up canning jars with their pictures attached, in the church’s fellowship hall. Anyone can put money in the jars and, at the end of the contest, the person whose jar contains the most money wins the contest.

“The winner gets to kiss a real, live cow right on the face,” Johnson said. “Everyone’s having a lot of fun, smack-talking each other about their jars. I figured, we’re Springville! We’re all about the cow, with Dairy Fest and everything. This fundraiser is perfect for us.”

Johnson said that she and Karen Werner, her organizational counterpart at the First United Methodist Church, have worked to make the fundraising a fun part of the 30 Hour Famine process. She added that her group is “really on board for it all.

“We have a congregation that’s very lighthearted,” she said. “When we have the opportunity to be goofballs, we’re all for it.”

Although the specific activities the famine participants will undertake during those 30 hours are yet to be determined, Johnson said she expects the event to be a fun, memorable, meaningful experience for all involved.

“I participated in the 90s and I remember the experience of coming to an awareness of what it feels like to be starving,” she said, of her reason for starting up the fundraiser again, last year. “For the first 10 hours, I was fine. After 15 or 20 hours, I would have eaten the rug if it wasn’t nailed down. It struck me that there are kids, toddlers and babies who are starving all the time; there’s no end for it. I thought, the chance to save one child is so rewarding. But it’s not just feeding them for a moment. With World Vision, they teach the people the skills to continue to feed themselves, as well.”

Last year, the combined congregations raised almost $5,000 and Johnson said she hopes to raise at least that amount this year, as well. The sponsoring organization quadrupled that number, bringing the total to $20,000 raised to end world hunger. Johnson said that World Vision has agreed to do the same, this time around.

“It doesn’t seem like we’re raising a lot sometimes, as we go along,” Johnson noted. “When it comes in, one donation at a time, it can feel slow. But it really does add up, and fast.”

In addition to the Flamingo Flu and cow kissing contest, donations can be made to an individual teen or the church’s page at www.30hourfamine.org. The team name is “First Presbyterian Church.”

While Johnson said that she could not provide a firm number of participants, she said she expected approximately 30 teens. Any teen older than 12 years old can participate, as long as she or he raised $30, the cost to feed one child. Johnson said that she and Werner are working on planning service activities for the teens to undertake, as well as “tribal” games to play that mimic the experience of living in starvation, She said that, between worship time, games and service, the only silent time during the 30 Hour Famine was during the breaking fast meal at the end of the weekend.

“At the heart of it, our goal is to empower youth to make a difference, like Christ did, by feeding those in need,” Johnson said. “We try to really get on their level and help youth show their friends what we’re about. As Christians, we love everybody. Our focus is on the kingdom, not just ourselves. We want to show them who we are.

“And we want it to grow. We want to be bigger and get other churches involved,” she said. “By the time my daughters are old enough to join, I want it to be a real force.”

More information about the 30 Hour Famine, its fundraising efforts in the area or joining the team are available by calling the First Presbyterian Church at 592-7962.Further details about World Vision and the 30 Hour Famine can be found on its website at www.30hourfamine.org.

Post pictures of your ownFlamingo Flu outbreaks, or flamingos spotted around town at the Journal’s Facebook page.


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