By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
He has to try. He has to do something.
That’s what President Barack Obama said Wednesday as he unveiled proposals to ban certain weapons and ammunition magazines, require background checks for gun buyers, boost school security and take other actions.
“If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if even one life can be saved, we have an obligation to try,” Obama said at the White House, with schoolchildren looking on.
Those strong words came a month and two days after a gunman murdered 26 people, 20 of them first-graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Far from Newtown, and just days after the tragedy, that impulse — to do something — was also felt by middle school students in Marysville.
Wearing Santa hats and with hand-drawn signs saying “Love &Donations for Sandy Hook” and “Playing for Sandy Hook,” several young musicians from 10th Street Middle School took to Seattle streets last month.
Dena Mielke, the mother of seventh-grader Carson Mielke, said her son was joined by fellow school band members Nate Novy, Jadelyn Lippmann and Olivia Lee in the fundraising effort. “It was all their idea,” Mielke said.
The kids played Christmas carols at Westlake Center and outside the downtown Seattle Nordstrom store for several hours Dec. 18 and Dec. 23, raising money for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. The fund is overseen by United Way of Western Connecticut.
“The first day they raised $530, and the second day almost $380,” Mielke said.
Carson plays trumpet, Nate and Jadelyn are saxophonists, and Olivia plays a flute.
Right after the shootings, Mielke said, “I was debating whether to even bring it up. Carson was really, really sad. I let him lead the conversation.”
Twelve-year-old Carson said this week he originally wanted to try raising money as a street musician for Toys for Tots. “We were planning on that, and then this tragedy happened. We changed our plans,” he said. “The money will go directly to the school where it can help, maybe with a memorial.”
Carson said he first learned about the shootings through a CNN alert on his iPad. In an innovative program, every student at 10th Street Middle School is required to use an iPad for schoolwork. “We all have iPads and we all play in the band,” Carson said.
In Seattle, as shoppers rushed by, the kids played “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Silent Night,” “O Christmas Tree” and other songs. “One lady’s sister had been to one of the funerals in Newtown. She donated $40,” Carson said.
“It was so bittersweet. people’s emotions,” said Sharilyn Lippman, Jadelyn’s mother. “People would smile, but it was this sorrowful smile. The kids would take a break, and people would still come up and give money.”
It was Lippman who contacted Karen Crowley at United Way of Snohomish County to ask how to donate to a cause in Newtown. Crowley is vice president of investor relations for the local United Way.
United Way here, Lippman said, let her know about United Way of Western Connecticut and the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. “United Way does so much good in our community. We felt very comfortable having the kids support it,” she said. Lippman, who knows someone with a Starbucks connection, has also been trying to get matching funds from the coffee giant for the students’ effort.
Like Mielke and her son, Lippman talked with Jadelyn about the Sandy Hook horror. “It’s just … why? They can’t understand it,” Lippman said. “The kids said it’s a blessing to be able to play Christmas music. Some kids and some parents will never have this chance.”
Obama talked about taking action. So did young Carson.
“Even though I’m just a kid, I am able to make a difference in somebody else’s life, and show people we do have power,” the boy said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help
Donations to help Sandy Hook School may be made through United Way of Western Connecticut’s Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Mail checks to: Sandy Hook School Support Fund, c/o Newtown Savings Bank, 39 Main St., Newtown CT, 06470. Information: https://newtown.uwwesternct.org/