Veronica Tovar shines on the big screen, not as an aspiring actress but as a youngster working to make a difference in her south Fort Worth community.
In this movie, the Clarke Elementary student organized her classmates to fight graffiti by painting over taggers' marks under school windows and on light poles, basketball courts and nearby houses. When taggers broke into the school and left more graffiti on the walls,Veronica was more resolved than ever to clean things up.
"The graffiti upsets me because it makes our school ugly and trashy. ... They think it's their territory, but it's ours and it's the community's," she said.
Veronica's work is highlighted in a new documentary called SLANT 45: The Movie, named after the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee program that encouraged local elementary-age children to take on volunteer projects. A sneak peak was shown at the Angelika Film Center in Plano on Wednesday.
The first-of-its-kind program drew more than 44,000 children, who logged more than 445,000 volunteer hours across North Texas. The documentary commissioned by the Host Committee follows a handful of teams, including three from Fort Worth, and features appearances by former President George W. Bush, former First Lady Laura Bush and former Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston, who chairs SLANT 45, which stands for Service Learning Adventures in North Texas.
Adults often think they know what children see and feel, but they may be surprised to learn what children identified as a need in their community, said Dallas-based filmmaker Mark Birnbaum, who produced the documentary.
"We just followed the kids as they did their projects, thinking we'd get a great story to tell, and indeed we did," he said.
Will Lourcey, an outgoing student from Tanglewood Elementary, practically stole the show.
Will, who organized a canned food drive and yard sale/lemonade stand for the Tarrant Area Food Bank, uses the PA system at a local store to urge shoppers to buy extra food for his cause. The documentary also captures him hamming it up with an Andy Warhol impression as he holds Campbell's soup cans.
In all, Lourcey's team Go FROGs -- Friends Reaching Our Goals -- collected 1,300 canned goods and $1,000 in donations, which was then matched by the Gary Patterson Foundation.
"This will feed a lot of hungry people," Will exclaimed on the big screen as he counted donations.
Also featured were children temporarily living at the Presbyterian Night Shelter complex in Fort Worth; their project was to help find homes for abandoned dogs.
Drew Myers, a volunteer who worked with the children, said it was overwhelming to see his team on the big screen.
"My kids are in a dire situation, but they learned that there are still ways that they can give back and help others," Myers said. "At first they were very nervous, especially with the film crew. But now they're ready to take on another project."
The documentary, however, is not quite finished.
On Wednesday, Birnbaum and his crew will capture the culminating event at American Airlines Center, where 18,500 children and their coaches will celebrate with a SLANT 45 Kids Bowl Bash featuring Bush and former American Idol contestant Jordin Sparks.
The documentary will be shown in local theaters later this month.
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700