The Weber State University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will host a dance Friday night to benefit the African Heartwood Project’s efforts to help 29 Liberian refugee children return home.
The children currently live at the Refugee Orphan Home at the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana established in 2008 by the African Heartwood Project’s founder, Andy Jones.
According to Andrea Lauritzen, the WSU athletics academic adviser, Jones visited the refugee camp many times and then opened the orphanage in 2008 for the abandoned children living on the streets.
“There are four people who run the home in Africa,” Lauritzen said. “They educate, clothe and feed the children. The kids are taking part in helping themselves, too; they do little projects to raise money for themselves so they can get things they need and a few extra nice things that aren’t essentials, like hair ribbons and socks.”
The Buduburam Refugee Settlement is in the process of being closed down permanently, so the African Heartwood Project is trying to move the orphanage to Liberia to provide a safe environment for the children.
According to the American Heartwood Project website, the estimated cost per child to move the orphanage to Liberia is around $2,500. That amount will contribute to expenses such as buying land, building or renovating structures, and transporting the children.
Lauritzen met Jones at a screening of the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell at WSU on Feb. 24. After the screening, Jones spoke about the efforts to relocate the orphanage to Liberia.
“I have lots of groups that I’m affiliated with at Weber, and I heard this and I thought, ‘We can do something, we can help,’” Lauritzen said.
Lauritzen brought the idea to Zach Perry, WSU master’s student, WSU track and field thrower, and president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
“We do events throughout the year to benefit different causes and try to reach out to the community to return the support we’re given as athletes,” Perry said. “When Andrea recommended the African Heartwood Project, I was excited for the opportunity to help out on a global level.”
To raise funds for the relocation of the orphanage, the committee is hosting an online auction that begins Friday and ends April 6. It will feature items from Ron McBride, former WSU head football coach; Lindsey Anderson, former WSU track and field star who competed in the steeplechase event in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing; Tim Toone, former WSU wide receiver who now plays for the Denver Broncos, and more.
“We picked people who truly bled purple for Weber State and have been well known in the athletic department,” Perry said. “Tim Toone was also involved with SAAC like we are. Some of the other people still have connections to Weber State right now.”
Perry said among the items to be auctioned off are an autographed football and gloves from Toone with the Broncos stamp on it.
Anderson will donate some gear she received while involved with the U.S. Olympic team, and other top-secret things Perry said he wouldn’t reveal until the auction begins.
The dance will cost $3 to attend. Those who attend will have the opportunity to donate more money while there.
“They have to raise a lot of money, but even if a lot of people give a dollar, that’s a lot of dollars,” Lauritzen said. All profits will go to the African Heartwood Project.
Activities at the dance will include a live DJ, a raffle, African dancing and drumming performances, prom-like dance pictures, and a presentation by Kathy Gambles about the African Heartwood Project.
“Other than it being for a great cause, those who attend will have a great time,” Lauritzen said. “We’re going to have a raffle and I’m donating homemade bread that will be fresh and hot. Come and enjoy a Friday night and help some children in Africa.”
More information about the African Heartwood Project is available at www.africanheartwoodproject.org.