Last Saturday, the town of Dexter, Mich., came together to celebrate Airplane Day, a unique advocacy event that commemorates the life and legacy of Laurence Carolin, a Dexter teen who passed away due to brain cancer two years ago.
Laurence was a truly incredible and selfless individual who was passionately involved with ONE and committed to raising awareness about the fight against poverty and disease. He even dedicated the last year of his life to this cause and donated all of his Make-A-Wish Foundation money to the United Nations Foundation, one of ONE’s partners. Laurence’s compassion was so inspiring that he was not only invited to meet Bono (a co-founder of ONE), but even inspired his family and friends to commit to carrying on his legacy of activism. Airplane Day is the culmination of this promise on the date that marks Laurence’s arrival in the US after he was adopted from his birth country of South Korea.
This year’s Airplane Day was an amazing experience and a true testament to the ability of just one voice to motivate and mobilize an entire community. In fact, the event was largely organized by a new ONE chapter at Dexter High School that was founded by a group of Laurence’s friends. Our University of Michigan ONE chapter was also empowered by Laurence’s story, so some of our leaders have been working closely with this group to help establish and run the organization. Through the combined efforts of Laurence’s friends, family and both ONE chapters, the event was a huge success, filled with great music, inspirational speeches and advocacy of all forms.
Furthermore, this event brought together people of all ages to learn about Laurence’s passions and ONE. Thus, throughout the event, both ONE groups were able to engage participants in conversations about ONE’s mission and inspire them to get involved. By the end of the night, we had signed up around 50 new members. We also generated 32 petition signatures for Feed the Future, 35 photo petitions to President Obama, and more than 40 letters to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Furthermore, the event inspired many more to pledge to hold their national leaders accountable in the fight to end extreme poverty and disease as well as to donate money to the United Nations Foundation.
Observing the ripple effects of Laurence’s compassion on Saturday was extremely moving. Though Laurence may no longer be with us, I truly believe his legacy will never die and his selfless dedication to ending extreme poverty will continue to empower all of us until one day his dream becomes a reality.
-Chelsea Davis, ONE member, Michigan