Hanging out with Saydi Shumway makes you want to be a better parent (and a better person).
She is constantly adventuring with her four kiddos. Whether in the Swiss Alps or at the local orchard, Saydi makes sure children are given every opportunity to live fully and authentically. As a family-focused social worker and a photographer, Saydi understands how small moments combine to form a child’s self-perception and view of the world. So she thoughtfully builds traditions into her family’s life that reinforce the values she teaches her kids. We cornered Saydi and asked her to share one of these great traditions—her family’s yearly Children for Children concert. Say hello to the Shumway family.
Hi Saydi! We love your idea of a yearly family giving tradition. Tell us about it.
Every year my kids organize a benefit concert for children somewhere in the world. My parents started this tradition when I was little, and it made such a big impact on us. It has since has spread through our extended family, picking up steam and participants every year. This year four of my siblings held their own Children for Children concerts. It’s so great to see how everyone does it differently. The thrill of making a positive change in the world has spread like wildfire through all these cousins and their friends and neighbors. It’s a perfect way to start off the holiday season.
Tell us about the kid-run planning committee.
This is our 5th year doing this concert with our good friends the Kruckenbergs. Our little planning committee (consisting of my two big kids and the three oldest Krucks) is getting pretty darn good at making this concert happen and finding creative ways to raise lots of money. The only thing the parents really do is to make sure the kids get together weekly for about 6 weeks before the concert to plan. This year the kids pretty much ran the meetings themselves (rotating who was in charge) and followed up with each other to make sure everyone was doing their tasks. Of course there was some mom nagging and nudging involved to make sure things were happening, but the work was all the kids’.
The kids carried out some impressive tasks. What was it like watching them lead?
They researched and voted on which charity to raise money for, contacted the charity, invited performers, talked through the program, emceed the event, came up with a presentation, sent out emails, made invitations, brainstormed some awesome donor incentives and figured out refreshments, sound, chairs etc etc. We had some pretty heated meetings full of debates and opinions. It was challenging but also quite enlightening to take a back seat and watch our kids’ unique styles of leadership and execution unfold. We bit our tongues and sat on our hands most of the time to give them space to do things on their own. There were times I just couldn’t refrain from stating some of my opinions, but, in the end, these guys called the shots.
I did come away from every meeting impressed with the kids’ dedication to the heart of this effort. In nearly every meeting they brought up the people they were helping and expressed their driving desires to really make a difference in the lives of kids who didn’t have the privileges they have.
How did the kids decide which nonprofit to support?
After some really great proposals the kids voted to raise money for an organization called Living Goods. They do really incredible work. Their model provides jobs to mothers while improving public health at the same time. The kids were sold by the unique way Living Goods helps children and by the fact that they could make a significant difference in a child’s life with just $2.
Tell us about the night!
People came. Kids performed. People donated money. We ate cookies. The mayor of our town came. One of the kids even wrote a song. It was a glowing night (after a bit of serious pre-concert drama).
Did the kids meet their fundraising goal?
The ‘planning committee’ set a goal to raise $2000. This was a big jump from last year, and we weren’t sure we were going to make it. In order to motivate donors, the kids pledged to pick up trash for 2 hours in our town if they reached their goal. After this pledge I think many of them were secretly hoping that they wouldn’t reach their goal. But their efforts were contagious and inspired the 1st, 4th and 5th grades at their elementary school to sell bookmarks to raise money for their cause. With that money added to so many generous donors they raised a total of $2331.90! I know compared to many big fundraisers this is pennies, but to these kids it’s a fortune. They were so excited and happily (for at least the first hour) picked up some pretty gross trash.
What do you think the kids learned from this experience?
The experience wasn’t all roses and warm fuzzies. We had our share of drama, upset kids, people not doing what they needed to, nerves, frustration, moms on edge. But in spite of all of this, they did it. I like to believe that the thrill of working hard and pulling something like this off is making a deep impact on who these kids are and how they see the world.
What effect do you think these concerts are having on your kids?
I love the connections the kids are making between their efforts and big problems. I love seeing them feel empowered to make changes. I love seeing the joy that comes from engaging in the world and working hard. And I LOVE the examples of so many adults around them who are willing to engage with them, come and listen to a little-bit-too-long concert with lots of budding but screechy talent, donate and pat them on the back.
This concert makes me so proud of the kids’ big hearts and their capable minds and their willing souls. Watch out world, these guys are growing up. They’re making their good, light, happy mark already. Can’t wait to see what’s to come.
Thank you, Saydi! We’re so impressed! Do you have any family giving traditions? Please share! #gojanegive If you don’t, it’s never too late to start. Create memories by turning your talents into a fundraiser for a great cause today.