CAMP VERDE – Chandler Plante was 6 years old the first time he led a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. march down Camp Verde’s Main Street.
Eight years later, Plante prepares for yet another opportunity to remind people that “everyone matters.”
“To see this little boy stand for the meanings of Martin Luther King Jr. and bring those values to his home town was not only encouraging, it was inspirational,” said Camp Verde resident Michele Herrick. “Seeing Chandler work every year to bring his community – our community – together, that in itself is monumental. Just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it seems to us that Chandler does not grow tired of doing all he can for others.”
According to Michelle Herrick’s husband Merle, last year’s MLK t-shirt “says it all to me.”
“One race. Human race,” he said. “One blood. Red blood.”
At 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, Camp Verde’s eighth MLK march will begin at the corner of Main and Hollamon streets.
After the march, folks are invited to the Camp Verde Community Center for a celebration that will include a speech by Chandler Plante, Stacey Gagnon and Eva Olson, as well as presentations by the Yavapai-Apache Nation Color Guard, and Olive Branch.
Bob Weir, superintendent of Valley Academy of Career and Technology Education, will be this year’s Master of Ceremonies.
Of Chandler, Camp Verde Middle School Principal Danny Howe said “he’s a really special kid.”
“He’s empathetic, caring and thoughtful,” Howe said. “He’s got a big heart.”
Michele Herrick said that she knew as a little girl “how important equality was and who Dr. Martin Luther King was.”
“He has been more than a hero to me, and to see how important Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to so many and that admiration in Chandler has been very heartwarming to me.”
This year, Chandler selected the Herricks to judge the third annual MLK Essay Contest, which he holds in conjunction with the annual march.
The contest affords students at Camp Verde Middle School an opportunity to share their thoughts of what Dr. King did, with one student chosen to read the winning speech as part of the post-march celebration.
The Herricks selected sixth grade student Eva Olson to read her speech. Michele Herrick said that she and Merle “felt honored to take that responsibility.”
“We were so impressed with the many students’ acts and feelings they put into words,” Michele Herrick said. “It was difficult to choose, very difficult. We can see the works that Chandler has done in his school. Encouraging others to know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to think about what they can do for others in their lives, how it makes them feel and how it makes others feel when acts of kindness and equality are shown to them.”
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42