Lucy VanTress eagerly took her paintbrush and splashed a bold mixture of colors all over her ceramic bowl.
Smiling and laughing, the 3-year-old was clearly enjoying herself Monday afternoon, as she received an early lesson about fighting inequality. The timing of her lesson was a fitting one for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which has been a federally recognized holiday since 1986.
VanTress was one of nine children participating in a "Kids for Equality" event at the Native American Longhouse at Oregon State University. The children, who were ages 2 to 12, painted bowls to be donated to OSU's 2010 "Empty Bowls" dinner award banquet, scheduled for March. Empty Bowls is a nationwide campaign that aims to help feed the hungry.
"She understands that some people don't have as much food as she does," said Lucy's mother, Courtney VanTress. "This helps bring up things that wouldn't be parts of normal conversations for her."
The event at the Native American Longhouse was one of several scheduled Monday at OSU to celebrate King's birthday, which was Friday. Other events included a peace breakfast, birthday party, a candlelight vigil and a round table discussion. Events will continue throughout this week on campus as part of OSU's 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
Yesenia Chavez, the Associated Students of Oregon State University multicultural affairs director, said this was the second year the longhouse hosted an event for kids.
"His philosophies and ideas connected people and have impacted us all," Chavez said. "So it's always fun to have kids here and share those things with them."
Off campus, Benton County residents participated in various community service events Monday to honor King's legacy, such as showing up at Willamette Park in the morning to help clear ivy from Trillium Trail. Since 1995, Martin Luther King Day has also been known as King Day of Service.
Back at the longhouse, Kristine Hong, 12, was putting the finishing touches on her bowl, which had the letters "H-E-L-L-O" wrapped around it, followed by a peace symbol.
Her slow, deliberate pace illustrated the pride she was taking in her work, which Hong attributed to the fact that her bowl was going toward a good cause.
"It's great to be helping someone," Hong said. "Dr. King is a hero to me because he tried to help people, too."