Saturday, April 9, 2016

Celebration Saturday - An Amazing Day - Salva Dut's Visit

I love linking up to a wonderful celebratory community, inspired by Ruth Ayres, every Saturday!
Salva Dut with one of my 6th grade classes
Many of you have traveled this road with me through reading blog and Facebook posts.  I'm still reeling from the experience and need to capture it all in words before such an extraordinary day is in the distant past.  I thought the best way to do it is to follow the itinerary Tracy Kleis (we were co-leaders in this endeavor) and I created with help from Shelley Bogaert, Columbia Intermediate principal, Dawn Gould, our district's Community Relations Director, and Lynn Malooly, Executive Director of Water for South Sudan.  For those who need more background about the project, here is a blog post that gives information about it:  Celebration Saturday

MARCH 29, 2016
8:00 Tracy and I picked Salva and Lynn up from Cincinnati Marriott Northeast.  Kudos to the management there because they donated two rooms for two nights on the concierge floor for Lynn and Salva.  I'll never forget seeing them walk down the hallway to greet us - what a moment! We headed to Kings Junior High for Salva's first presentation (9:00-9:45). I remember thinking how surreal it was to look over to my passenger seat and seeing Salva there while I drove him to the school.  It was so important that the junior high kids see him because they were the pioneers of #ReadWalkWater.  The current 8th graders were the first kids to read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park together and get inspired to do something about the water crisis.  They responded with compassion and action.  The junior high principal (who also had a personal connection to the book and Salva's story because she adopted a little girl from Ethiopia - she saw her daughter in Nya) gathered all the 7th and 8th graders in the auditorium (about 680-700 kids) to hear Salva's inspiring message.  I chose two 8th graders who were very involved in our first campaign to introduce Salva.  They did a wonderful job.  We were impressed with the kids' rapt attention.  They loved Salva!  He graciously took pictures and signed books afterward.
Salva with the 8th graders who introduced him (Kyra and Gracie) and Kings Junior High principal, Nicole Huelsman

Signing one of my former student's book

Salva with our Kings knight!

Tracy, me, Salva, and our principal, Shelley
9:45  We headed to Columbia Intermediate School for Salva's 2nd presentation to the 6th graders (10:00-10:45).  Tracy chose two of her students to introduce Salva there, and again, they did a wonderful job.  The 6th graders were also completely engaged in Salva's talk and asked great questions.  We then took Salva to visit several of our 6th grade classes.   Little did I know when I first read A Long Walk to Water three years ago that the main real life character would be standing in my classroom with my students in 2016!!

11:15  We headed to the Blue Ash/Montgomery Rotary Club for lunch and Salva's third presentation (12:00-1:30).  What a warm and welcome greeting we got!  Our superintendent (Tim Ackerman) and assistant superintendent (Tim Spinner), Dawn, and our Ethicon liaison and supporter, Kim Lenahan, attended.  Because Salva is a Rotarian and has won Rotary's most prestigious "Service Above Self" award, it was exciting to connect him to one of our local clubs.  We hope it results in a future project with them.

2:00 A spontaneous invite to tour Ethicon Endo-Surgery!  Because Ethicon, our generous #ReadWalkWater supporter, was right around the corner from the Rotary site, Kim invited us to take a tour.  Wow!  What an impressive place!  Not only are their products fascinating (they make surgical tools), but the people who worked there were so friendly and generous with their time and knowledge.  You could certainly tell that the people of Ethicon live up to the Johnson & Johnson credo!
3:30 A much needed break for Salva and Lynn!  They rested at their hotel until our big evening event.
5:45 Started setting up for the evening event.  We displayed #ReadWalkWater rubber wristbands and Water for South Sudan water bottles to sell, Kim (from Ethicon) brought wireless computers so that guests could donate online, and the choir came early to rehearse.  We didn't know what to expect in attendance.  Dawn put out many press releases and Facebook posts, and our school notified parents and community members.  We invited staff, administrators, and board members.  I also invited a few neighboring districts who also held walks for Water for South Sudan.  At 6:15, a group from Mason, a district right next to us, presented a $1,000+ check to Salva and Lynn personally.  Also, a couple of teachers from Loveland (one of them a parent of Kings students, Jen Kirby), also a "next door" district, were able to meet him and have him sign their Iron Giraffe flag.  Loveland has raised around $15,000 for Water for South Sudan!
When people started pouring in at 6:00  for the 6:30 event, we knew were going to have a full house, and we did!  We estimated about 150 came - it was standing room only.  Many of our CIS choir members volunteered to sing for Salva, and they did a beautiful job.  They opened the presentation for us.
Mason kids, parents, and staff presenting Salva a check for Water for South Sudan

Our wonderful choir and choir director
6th graders introducing Salva

A full house!
Salva with Tracy and me
Salva and Lynn

Our superintendent, Tim Ackerman (to Salva's right, my left) and assistant superintendent, Tim Spinner (on Salva's left), CIS principal, Shelley Detmer-Bogaert on Tim Spinner's left, Lynn Malooly (Executive Director of Water for South Sudan) and Tracy Kleis to Lynn's left

A Salva Selfie!!
With CIS assistant principal, Lori Stovall (on Salva's right), and principal Shelley Detmer-Bogaert on Salva's left - Tracy to left of Shelley
Kim Lenahan (Ethicon) and Salva
Posing with one of my students (on his left) and her brother
Salva stayed after his last presentation and tirelessly signed books and took pictures with kids.  He was amazing!  We were able to give Lynn and Salva another $800+ to take back with them from cash donations and wristband and water bottle sales.  We hope they received online donations, also.
Lynn and Salva headed back to the hotel at about 9:00 if I remember correctly.  It was an amazing day!  We thank them profusely for the incredible honor of their visit.  Salva is truly an inspiration - he is just as kind, generous, and peaceful in person that you would imagine him to be.  It is an honor to call him a friend.  Thank you, thank you, Lynn and Salva, for coming to Kings, and thank you for all you're doing for the people of South Sudan.  We love being a part of your good works!  Thank you, too, to the generous folks at Ethicon, Cincinnati Marriott Northeast, the Blue Ash/Montgomery Rotary, Tracy for being an awesome co-leader and grant writer, the Kings administration and staff for all your support, the Kings parents and community, and especially the Kings kids who walked for water and raised funds - you are truly changing the world!



  1. What an amazing experience!!! I am going to share this with my students. We are in the middle of the book right now. They love it. I can't imagine getting the chance to meet Salva. He's such a hero of mine. Thank you for sharing!

  2. So much inspiration! When kids are motivated, they can make a difference. That they got to meet their hero and that he was so generous with his time with them...that is just amazing!

  3. So amazing what one book can do! I am impressed with the energy and dedication you have given to the project. You have been nicely rewarded with this visit. Congratulations. I hope you get to share this all with NCTE. True advocacy at work.

  4. Wonderful wrap up of your incredible week. I've listened to the you tube link you shared of Linda Sue Park and Salva. Now I need to read Long Walk to Water!