Mitchell Gorman has a secret identity. By day, he seems like any other 10-year-old boy: He goes to school, plays sports and hangs out with his friends. But, if you must know, Mitchell is a super hero; in fact, he’s been one for a few years now.
When he was 7, Mitchell began a benefit concert at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu put on entirely by other youth members. But instead of charging an outrageous fee and keeping the profit for himself, Mitchell decided that those who attend should be given the choice to donate their money to help create an Animal Ark for Heifer International, an organization that provides aid and sustainability to families in the poorest countries around the world through the gift of animals.
“The animals get them food, money and better health,” Mitchell explains. “They can use the money to go to school, and they don’t have to purchase milk, cheese or sometimes meats or honey. It will give them a better education.”
Mitchell’s mother, Vicki, adds that through a $5,000 donation to Heifer Project International, a pair of livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, sometimes even bees) is donated to a family in a low-income community. Monies also are used to train the recipients in animal management strictly enforced by animal welfare guidelines; teach community members environmentally sound agricultural techniques; and help people start and expand businesses.
“It goes along with the mission, ‘Not a cup but a cow,’” she states. “By giving these people the whole animal and the knowledge of how to raise them, they can become self-sustaining communities. The only thing the family that receives the first animals must do is pass on at least one offspring to another family. That way, the gift keeps going and improves the whole community.”
Mitchell says his church first began an Animal Ark in 2005 through the suggestion of his friend Michael’s father, Doug Althouser. The idea was if congregation members pledged $1 each day during Lent, then over the course of 40 days and through the participation of every member, they could easily provide the funds necessary to purchase animals for a few low-income communities.
Mitchell ran with this idea, but instead of relying on grownups, he decided to get his young Sunday School peers involved.
“He felt that the children should do something special, that this should be their project,” says Vicki. “My husband and I are both musicians, so we said we would help out if they felt overwhelmed. The fun thing is, we have so many talented youth that our services are never necessary. The children have owned this project since it started.”
The initial challenge Mitchell set forth to the adults was to raise $4,000 to go with the children’s $1,000 to buy an ark of animals. After the first concert in 2006 successfully raised more than $2,000, the group effort evolved from a fundraiser within the church community into an annual concert for the public.
“Everyone thought we wouldn’t be able to raise enough money, but we were able to,” says Mitchell. “(Helping their communities) helps children by giving them a good experience. It gives their communities a goal to work toward, and people benefit from the money they raise. Other kids should help their fellow children have a better life. It saves their lives sometimes.”
Mitchell will use his violin-playing talents for good during “ARK IV: A Benefit Concert for Heifer International” beginning at 4 p.m. this Saturday at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu (1730 Punahou St.). Other children from ages 4 to 17 also will perform musical arrangements on the violin, cello, organ, piano as well as perform hula and choir songs. The concert is free and open to the public; free parking is available at 1817 Poki St. For more information on the concert or Heifer International, visit www.LCHwelcome.org or www.heifer.org
When he’s not busy helping save the world, Mitchell can be found playing tennis, reading books and swimming. While he is home-schooled in Kaneohe, he plays percussion in the band at St. Mark’s. As for his future heroic deeds, he says he’d like to get into architecture or computer design.
“If you build houses and run them in a way that makes it cheap for everybody to live there, that could help lots of people,” says the incognito boy wonder. “Also, it depends on the way you power your building: You can make eco-friendly buildings, which makes a small difference ... unless there are lots of them!”
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