Junior Joy Team brings cheer to City Hall

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

Published:

Updated: February 13, 2012, 8:19 PM

 

It wasn’t random, but it certainly was kind.

Members of the newly formed Junior Joy Team stopped by Vancouver City Hall on Monday to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness week. The children, ages 6 to 11, brought more than 260 bags filled with hand-drawn pictures, notes and candy to give to each of the city’s employees. It was the kick-off event for the group and has been in the works since January.

“The kids couldn’t sleep last night,” said parent Dana Damara. “They were so excited.”

The group, like its adult version, aims to spread joy and optimism to the community.

Joy Team founder Michele Larsen founded the adult group in February 2011. She said a children’s group was a natural part of the group’s evolution because her children accompanied her to many of the adult group’s events.

“I thought maybe we should have the Junior Joy Team, so kids can choose (the projects),” Larsen said.

The kids group first met in January.

“It was seriously a board meeting over mac ’n’ cheese and carrots,” Damara said.

The first thing the kids chose to do was visit city employees.

On Sunday, they spent an hour and a half stuffing cards, hand-drawn pictures and candy into heart-covered bags while learning about city departments.

On Monday morning, seven of the 10 team members took a tour of City Hall, passing out goodie bags along the way. The children attend Hough Elementary, St. Joseph Catholic and King’s Way Christian schools.

Michele Larsen’s daughter, Taryn, 8, said she wanted to meet the mayor and spread joy through the community.

The kids said the highlight of the trip was spending time behind the councilors’ chairs and answering questions from Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt. The mayor, who played a concerned citizen during a pretend meeting, suggested to the councilors-in-training that the city needs more police officers.

Kellen Larsen, 10, another one of Michele’s kids, handled it like a pro.

“Well, let us think about that,” he said, while sitting in Councilor Larry Smith’s chair.

All of the kids fielded another question from the audience: “Is this better than being in math class?”

The answer was a unanimous “yes.”

Jill Bingham, an administrative assistant in the city’s economic development department, made sure it would be OK for the kids travel through the building and had a representative from each department talk about what he or she does. She also guided the students through the work area to hand out the gifts.

“It was refreshing having some good news come our way,” Bingham said.

The Junior Joy Team plans to host several events each year and to visit to firefighters, police, teachers, nurses, garbage collectors and construction workers.

Larsen got contact information for the Vancouver fire and police departments during the tour. She said police might be the next stop for her Junior Joy kids.