Pint-size promoter sells his cause: Improving a Snohomish park

SNOHOMISH — At just over 4-feet-tall, a Snohomish philanthropist is doing more than dreaming big.

Jonah Urie, 8, is working toward a goal. He’s raising money to improve Tillicum Kiwanis Park behind the Snohomish Boys &Girls Club.

“Anybody at any age can do stuff to help the world and make it better,” he said.

The Dutch Hill Elementary third grader has raised more than $1,125 by selling his hand-made friendship bracelets for $2 apiece. He also bakes and markets cookies for his cause.

Jonah said his dad, Andrew Urie, 36, is the business manager of his operation.

“But I’m the president of this because I’m the one who came up with the idea,” he said.

Urie, a single father, adopted Jonah three years ago. A year later, he adopted Jonah’s brother Zeke, 6.

Now, Jonah is following in his father’s footsteps. Urie does nonprofit work in assistive technology for people with disabilities at Sherwood Community Services in Lake Stevens. Jonah went to his father last fall with an idea to raise money for park equipment geared toward older ages. He and his friends from the club were quickly outgrowing the park’s existing features.

“We don’t really use the equipment anymore because it’s getting boring,” Jonah said.

Originally, he dreamed of building a water park.

“We found out how much money it would cost and were like, ‘Oh boy, we don’t want to go that far,’” he said.

Working with the city parks department, Jonah settled on a $3,500 project.

He let about 150 people vote on which equipment to buy. Now, he plans to raise all of the money to install a piece called “The Vortex.” It’s a feature similar to a Sit ‘n Spin except it also swings.

Jonah works on his project several nights a week. He has a Facebook account and a GoFundMe page. The city is accepting tax-deductible donations in his name.

Jonah also visits community groups to promote the cause. Last week, he spoke to the Snohomish Chamber of Commerce about why it’s never too early for young people to start volunteering.

Snohomish Boys &Girls Club Director Marci Volmer said Jonah has the best luck when he talks to people about fundraising.

“It’s the fact that an 8-year-old saw something he thought the community needed and jumped on it,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to help him?”

Volmer said Jonah is learning to be a good steward of the donations and is setting an example for others at the club.

“It’s cool because we know he’s going to do it,” Volmer said. “It’s not if.”

Jonah is careful to keep his own cash and the project’s money separate. He mows lawns and does chores to earn spending money.

He buys materials for his products out of his own pocket. His father and some local businesses have pitched in to provide supplies.

Jonah remains humble about his work. He rejected a suggestion to name the new equipment after him.

“It’s not like it’s mine,” he said. “It’s not like I invented it.”

In meetings with the parks department, Jonah also raised the issue of the park’s accessibility for those with disabilities.

“He’s thinking about community and inclusion,” Urie said. “He’s come a long way in this.”

Once he reaches his goal, Jonah said, he needs a vacation. Then, he just might set his sights on another project. Someday, Jonah hopes to send his own children to the park he helped upgrade.

“It would just keep going on,” he said.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

If you want to help:

Jonah Urie Playground Donation

City Hall, 116 Union Ave., Snohomish, WA 98290

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