For a while, the future of Mesa’s three-day-long Martin Luther King Jr. celebration looked bleak. But last week, MLK parade organizers received some good news: a local Mesa family heard about their plight and offered to donate the remaining $9,000 to jump-start the parade.
Rolland Lawson and his wife decided to make the donation after they saw a group of Westwood High School students on television urging residents to help save the annual event.
Now the parade, as well as all the other MLK events, including the breakfast, the Night of Tribute, the MLK festival and the candlelight vigil, appear to have the green light.
“I’m relieved we are going to have the parade, but now the work really starts,” said John Goodie, the parade’s primary organizer.
The annual parade was in jeopardy after Mesa cut its funding. For the past few months, Goodie has been trying to galvanize donors to give the $10,000 to save the parade.
About a month ago, students in Westwood’s Achiever’s Club decided they wanted to be involved, said Andrea Murphy, a special education teacher at the school.
The students formed their own MLK parade committee and began soliciting donations from local businesses, making television appearances and holding their own fundraisers at school.
It was after they appeared on television that Lawson offered to donate the rest of the money.
“The kids felt empowered by this project,” Murphy said. “I think they felt that all the hours they spent working toward this really paid off.”
Meanwhile, as volunteers were working to save the parade, organizers of the MLK breakfast were trying to keep their own event afloat. In past years the city paid for the Mesa MLK celebration committee to utilize the Mesa Centennial Center for the breakfast and the Mesa Amphitheatre for the festival. But the funding for both venues also was slashed this year.
Tickets to the breakfast cost $35, but it’s not enough to cover the entire event. The committee also must pay for a motivational speaker and sound equipment, not to mention the costs associated with other MLK events, said Bob Troidl, co-chairman of the Mesa MLK celebration committee.
But given the tough situation this year, Boeing Co. has pledged $10,000 to help underwrite the breakfast — the largest donation the breakfast has ever received, Troidl said.
Committee members said they are relieved their financial woes are over — at least for this year.
“I’m excited, but there is certainly more work to do,” said Patrick Murphy, chairman of the Mesa MLK celebration committee.