World Wrestling Entertainment stars surprised third- and fourth-grade students at Samoset Elementary School with a big announcement on Thursday.
William McKnight, Jermaine Edwards, Anajiah Edwards and Branniyah Taylor were crowned the 2017 Red Nose national contest winners by WWE stars Darren Young, Ember Moon and Ruskin’s own Mary Kate Glidewell. The winning team is part of Samoset’s Oasis Community Center SOZO program, which encourages Samoset youthd to explore their musical talents.
Led by Director Dwayne Parker, or better known as Bishop Freeze to the center’s youths, the SOZO kids finished as a finalist last year in another national “Let’s Play” contest, sponsored by Kaboom. Red Nose Day is officially May 25 and the organization calls for “Noses On” to battle child poverty.
According to Mike Bryant, Discovery Education director of educational program activation, Red Nose Day started 30 years ago, but only came to the United States in 2015. The organization has raised more than $1 billion toward combating child poverty and in just two years in the U.S. has raised more than $60 million.
“There’s a lot of differences you can make by starting something small and it just continues to grow,” Bryant said.
It’s a perfect program for Glidewell, who spent her youth ensuring no one in her community went without a Thanksgiving meal.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I worked with my mom and dad on the Give Big program they started to prepare Thanksgiving meals for others in our community,” she said. “Instead of spending time around our own table at Thanksgiving, we would be cooking and delivering Thanksgiving dinner to others. I’m thankful that I did not have to grow up knowing hunger, and I want to do everything I can to make sure others don’t have to.”
Glidewell had the pleasure of making the announcement that local youth had won the contest. Parker and his SOZO kids won $5,000 that can be put toward projects to battle child poverty, along with brand new recording equipment.
Samoset Elementary Principal Maribeth Mason said the school understands the need of the low-income community that surrounds one of Manatee County’s oldest areas. The school operates a food bank, which remains open every day during school hours and is stocked by local churches.
Young said WWE stars do more than wrestle.
“We give back to the community,” he said. “We are very big advocates of our Be A Star program, which is to show tolerance and respect. Bullying is a serious epidemic and here at WWE our time is very valuable. When we come to these schools, we talk to you guys about not bullying and being stars and each and everyone of you are stars in this room.”
Parker said overcoming child poverty is a just cause.
“Right here in the Samoset area, we have a lot of kids here that are living on the borderline of poverty, so our goal is to do what we can to combat that,” Parker said. “Make sure kids get meals, make sure kids are fed and have a safe place to come after school.”