Not many people get a standing ovation in the heart of the State Capitol.
But 9-year-old Xavier Kennedy got just that during Gov. Ducey’s annual State of the State address Jan. 8 – all because he not only thought of kids less fortunate than him, but actually did something about it.
As first reported by AFN last April, the now-third-grader at Cerritos Leadership Academy had proposed to parents Genevieve and Scott Kennedy that he find ways to raise money so that he and his then-4-year-old sister could visit the California amusement park that was built around the fictional character he had been following since he was 4.
But then Xavier had another idea. As he told AFN:
“My mum promised eventually we would go to Harry Potter land. Then I thought about kids who are not as fortunate as me and decided to raise money to send a kid and his parent to Harry Potter land for two days. The idea just popped into my head to start raising money to help another kid because I was so sad to think they couldn’t do what my family could afford to do.”
So Xavier got to work.
He figured out a budget that included tickets, food, hotel, gas and a souvenir.
Then he came up with “a bunch of ideas” for raising the money, starting with the sale of handmade magic wands for $20.
“I use cooking chopsticks and use hot glue to make the handle, then I put two coats of paint and add gold, white or brown accent,” Xavier told AFN.
Because each wand takes four or five days to make, Xavier worked for a month on making some before he went public.
He also created “a little book full of spells and their definitions that you can fit in your pocket.
“You can use spells from the movie or make up your own. It’s kind of like a dictionary of spells,” he said at the time.
His parents helped, holding a bake sale and getting other local news media to publicize his effort.
He raised $1,750.
Then, the #LoveUp Foundation helped him make his and a little girl’s dream come true.
The Kennedys teamed up with the foundation, started by radio personality Johnjay Van Es of the Johnjay and Rich Morning Show.
The foundation, formally called the Johnjay and Rich LoveUp Foundation, aims to “improve the quality of life for children in need by offering assistance, comfort and hope” and specifically envisions “all children facing life in the Foster Care System will one day be living in a stable forever home full of love and opportunity.”
Johnjay and Rich found an 8-year-old girl living in a West Valley foster home and, with the help of Xavier’s $1,750, sent her to Harry Potter World last December with her guardian-grandmother and aunt and uncle.
“Because friends of the #LoveUp Foundation covered the costs of the flights, hotel and Lyft ride to the park, all $1,750 Xavier raised in total went to their park experience,” said Genevieve Kennedy.
The governor’s office heard of the story on the Johnjay and Rich show, Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpianto told AFN.
And the governor wanted to tell his state.
He invited Xavier and his parents to sit with the Legislature and other guests when he gave his speech.
Then, as he thanked the faith community for “stepping up to the plate” to help Arizona’s 11,000 foster children, the governor told his this:
“It’s not just churches, though. We can all make a difference. Sometimes we forget, and we need a reminder. Well, a young Arizonan named Xavier recently provided us that reminder. At 9 years old, Xavier has already worked magic for one special foster child — literally.”
He recounted Xavier’s efforts, prompting the well of the Capitol to erupt in a standing ovation, and he later invited Xavier and his parents to his private post-address reception.
“The family came to the governor’s private reception and he spent some time with them here,” Scarpianto said.
Kyrene Schools Superintendent Jan Vesely also was touched by and proud of Xavier’s act of kindness, and shared it with district business leaders when she met them last week.
Meanwhile, Xavier also got what really became his second wish – to visit Harry Potter World.
“We did go this past summer after he had finished his fundraising,” his mother said. “It was a magical 12-hour day. The best part was that Xavier was chosen for the ‘wand-fitting ceremony’ at Ollivander’s which was truly his wish come true.”
Ollivander’s is a wand shop.
The whole experience has left Xavier’s parents grateful in several ways.
We’ve been a bit embarrassed by all the publicity,” Genevieve said, “but then I feel that it helps to promote the #LoveUp Foundation and just an awareness of everyone being able to help others. Our family would like to thank everyone in our community who contributed to his fundraising efforts. It was a magical gift to give his family.”