Generosity of North Texas children shattered all expectations for Super Bowl service program

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History's new building was not yet completed when museum president Van Romans first met with Bill Lively, president of the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee, about forming a partnership that would fulfill one of the common goals of both organizations.

"We have workshops here for kids because we want to create learning through doing," Romans said. "And Bill invited us to play a part."

The fruits of that partnership went on display Thursday in the Innovations wing of the museum, where about 1,000 pieces of artwork completed by elementary school children in the host committee's SLANT 45 program were unveiled. The artwork, which was done on 8- x 8-inch sheets of paper, is a reflection of the experiences kids have had in the community-service program.

The themes include fighting hunger, recycling and the environment, eliminating graffiti, providing toys and clothing for the poor and animal rescue.

"We came up with SLANT 45 to give the Super Bowl a conscience," Lively said. "We had boys and girls commit to performing service under the banner of football. And, of all the things we've done, this is the project I'm most proud of."

Almost 45,000 North Texas grade-school kids have participated in SLANT 45, combining for more than 400,000 hours of community service. While adults have served as coaches and mentors, the kids have been responsible for everything from conceptualizing to executing.

The Host Committee has collaborated with Dallas-based Big Thought, a non-profit that focuses on educating kids through creative learning.

Individual gifts from groups such as the Gary Patterson Foundation, sponsors Bank of America and the Skokos Foundation, and kid-inspired ingenuity -- bake sales and lemonade stands -- provided funding.

"When it started, I heard that they wanted 20,000 kids, and I said, 'That would be great, but don't be disappointed if we just come close,'" said Daryl Johnston, the former Cowboys star who has played an instrumental role as chairman of SLANT 45.

"There is an elementary school in Coppell that held a health fare that involved 8,000 service hours, about 20 percent of our original goal," he said. "You hear so many bad things about kids in our society, but now it's easy for me to push that aside."

The SLANT 45 art exhibit is spread among three venues -- North Park Mall in Dallas, the Science and History Museum and DFW Airport Rental Car Center, said Angie Bulaich, who supervises the program for the Host Committee. The work will be on display through Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 6, after which selected pieces will be shown in the Texas State Capitol building's rotunda and gallery in Austin.

Groups of kids, parents and teachers were at the museum Wednesday, admiring the artwork and posting for photos.

Emily King, a third-grader at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, drew a turkey with "Get Well" written across the top.

"The turkey is the symbol of Thanksgiving, and we collected new toys for kids before the holidays began," she said. "The toys had to be new so that there wouldn't be any germs on them."

Her schoolmate, Saleem Razack, also in third grade, had drawn an oversized heart that he said was to symbolize hope for young cancer patients. "Everyone in class was doing something about cancer, but I was in a happy mood and wanted to have hope," he said.

All the kids who have participated in SLANT 45 are invited to attend the Kids Bowl Bash party at American Airlines Center on Jan. 12.

They will get to see snippets from SLANT 45 the Movie, a documentary that chronicles the program from the start through the eyes of five kids.

Johnston also said there are plans to work with the Indianapolis 2012 Host Committee's community service program and to perhaps have a SLANT 47 project in place for the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans.

"We also want to continue the program here, in a scaled-down version, until the Super Bowl comes back," he said.

"This program can be productive even when the Super Bowl leaves here. It's a way for kids to be connected to their community."

Pete Alfano, 817-390-7985

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