GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. If you've been a fan of Eleven Who Care over the years, you know the music theme phrase "we know what matters."
Now in its 30th year, Eleven Who Cares still defines what matters; making our community a better place through volunteerism. At the core of this annual recognition event are eleven amazing volunteers. Representing organizations as diverse as the volunteers themselves, each one has a story, yet they all share one common trait- the drive to tirelessly give of their time.
Since the first broadcast in 1984, the Eleven Who Care program has honored more than 330 outstanding community volunteers. For the first twenty-five years, the program was a live gala event, held at places like the downtown Hilton Hotel, The Radisson South Hotel, and Orchestra Hall. It was a black-tie affair that drew both community leaders as well as the volunteers and their families. It's always been an unique event and today, the focus is on the volunteers, their stories and celebrating volunteerism in our community.
"When you watch Eleven Who Care and you've had a chance to see it for 30 years, that is spreading really a message of hope in this community, go out and do something for somebody else," said KARE 11 anchor Diana Pierce. It's a message Pierce knows well, having hosted and been the face of the event for the past three decades.
While every story is inspirational, there are certain ones that have stood out over the years. Honorees have ranged in age well into their 90's, but when it comes to sage advice, however, the teens always make an impression. In the words of 14-year-old Anne Brooker, a 2005 honoree, "Just find something you like to do, go for it, just don't be afraid to try."
Over the years, Eleven Who Care has proven to be more than an awards ceremony. 1985 honoree Mary Jo Copland started the Sharing and Caring Hands organization with the $1,100 she was given as an Eleven Who Care award recipient. In 2008, former Minnesota Viking Randall McDaniel and his wife Marianne were recognized for their program for middle school students called Team McDaniel. "Just like preparing for an opponent, we help them to prepare so they can do well," says Randall.
From Ernest Owens, the 1990 winner who provided crucial life skills information to inner-city teens to Patty Wetterling who was singled out in 1994 as an advocate for the rights and safety of children, to Chris Dolan, a 1996 honoree and an Eagle scout who started a non-profit that distributed food to the needy in his St. Paul neighborhood, the message of Eleven Who Care is one of inspiration and encouragement. As Pierce says, " I think the evening of 11 Who Care really gives a focal point for a lot of people. But until you see that evening and you see the variety and every kind of opportunity to give back, I think what that does is that encourages others to, if they're never volunteered to do it."
There's an anonymous saying that says "Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer." Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers and thousands in our community that continue to support volunteerism. We should all be proud that a program like Eleven Who Care is now going into it's fourth decade.