Things were really BUZZING in Georgia around the Marietta Square on Sunday, April 2, as more than 500 people joined Marietta First Baptist Church, Grammy award winning band Third Day, ONE, Sustenance Group, Malaria No More, and Nothing But Nets™ at the first annual World Malaria Day event to raise awareness and money.
The day started early as more than 60 volunteers began streaming in to set up. The afternoon’s events started in the Marietta First Baptist Church Family Life Center. Paul Howell, internationally recognized mosquito expert for the Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Resource Center (MR4) at the Centers for Disease Control, put together a fascinating look at mosquitoes and the use of bed nets in the developing world. Nets were hung over air mattresses as a “village at night” was created for people to experience. Kids were welcomed into the village and were encouraged to sleep under a bed net – at least for a little while. The new Bobby Bailey film, “When the Night Comes,” played in the background as people experienced the night in our village. Paul Howell brought in more than 500 contained mosquitoes to demonstrate how many infectious bites a child can receive in one year, and also to show people how the mosquitoes react to the chemicals when they come in contact with treated nets.
The children’s area featured a rock climbing wall, hula hoops and the opportunity to learn more about malaria and its devastating effects through the use of word searches, maps and other fun games. Former Atlanta Hawks and Georgia Tech basketball standout, Ivano “Newby” Newbill, led everyone in a basketball contest and a free throw contest. We had some pretty good shooters on the court! Star, the mascot for the Atlanta Dream (Atlanta’s professional women’s basketball team) was on the court helping Newby with all those great shooters.
At 4:30, we moved the activities to the sanctuary where singer Scott England opened the musical portion of the event. Scott performed an awesome, inspiring set for us. After Scott’s set, the Mayor of Marietta, Steve “Thunder” Tumlin joined fellow ONE member Kristi Wooten and me at the microphone to declare Marietta a City of ONE and to introduce Third Day. I had not ever met the members of Third Day, but what great guys – knowledgeable, passionate, and just nice men. Their music is inspirational and so is their attitude.
After the music, Third Day members talked with fans and signed autographs. Mac Powell, lead singer, took the opportunity to spend some time at our mosquito exhibit, learning and asking some really good questions about malaria.
The good news and bottom line: At last count, we successfully raised almost $9,000 including a matching gift from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. That’s at least 900 nets – nets that will save lives! More good news, donations are still coming in!
Special thanks to Marietta First Baptist Pastor Bill Ross, music minister Paul Hill, children’s minister Lauren Waggoner and all the church staff, as well as church members Christina and Paul Howell, Karla Jacobs, Debbie Schulte, and so many others who made this event such a success.