sydney-hannibal_web.jpgMIAMI — The upcoming presidential election is the most closely watched political event of our time, one in which children are being encouraged to lend their voices and express their concerns. Exposing children to the principles, policies and responsibility of voting can be crucial to their future.

Women for Obama, Miami chapter and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, presented Kids 4 Obama: A Family Festival for Change. The event, attended by 860 people, was held last Sunday, Oct. 26 at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove.

“The purpose of the event, besides helping children feel empowered and helping them as they grow up to learn that voting is important, was to get their parents there,” said Jennifer Frehling, WFO member.

“Miami City Hall is located two blocks from here,” Frehling added, “and we were able to shuttle residents over too so that they can vote early.”

Frehling, of Miami Beach, is also the co-chair of Kids 4 Obama.

Women for Obama is a nationwide group that comprises people of all backgrounds, cultures, age and economic groups.

“What we all have in common,” Frehling explained, “is that we see him [Obama] as our hope and will work to see that he gets elected.”

The Miami chapter, founded in January, has about 60 women, Frehling said.

Activities at the event included arts and crafts, Obama crafts and a video for change booth. Guests included Smokey the Clown, pop artists Phil Fung and Tee Pop; performances by Nestor Torres, Speaking Hands and Soca-T.

Diaz said that he “could not think of a more appropriate event to introduce our children to the importance of voting. I want my children to have the same Miami I had growing up. What better legacy to leave them with than the future. We look to our children, to their futures, and to a man who, as president, will restore their hopes and dreams of a life better than our own.”

Actress Alfre Woodard, children’s author Judy Blume and state Rep. Oscar Braynon II also attended.

Kids for Obama spokesperson Sofia Zamboli, 9, of Miami Beach, said she is concerned about the future of healthcare and what she, as an adult, may face.

“I want to see people getting healthcare,” she said, “but many don’t have the money because it’s really expensive.”

Sofia shared that when she had to get stitches, her mother said, “it was a lot of money. She didn’t tell me how much because she didn’t want me to worry.”

Healthcare matters to everyone, Sofia said, “and you don’t want to be lying sick out there somewhere because you can’t pay for it. A lot of people are struggling to pay for healthcare, and some people just suffer. They can’t pay for the hospital, so they just struggle more.’’

People really want that to change, Sofia said, “and I really doubt that (Sen. John) McCain can do it.”

Sofia, who also performed as a singer at the event, cited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as an example of what she would like to see happen with America’s healthcare system.

“At St. Jude, a lot of people can’t pay, but they [St. Jude] still open the doors and say ‘OK, we’ll take care of you.’  People donate money, and that’s how the bills get paid. All the kids there don’t have to struggle. Anyone can go there that has a need.

“We want more hospitals like that,” she said. “If other hospitals lowered their prices, then more people can get help.”

Sofia added that all of her friends are “really excited that I get to do all this stuff. I just say that everyone is going to have the chance to do what they really want to do one day, and this is what I want to do.  So right now, I’m a SpokesKid for Obama.”

About Kids for Obama, also known as K4O, Sophia said, “It’s a really good group. They let people around the world know that kids can be a part of politics.”

Sydney Hannibal, 12, of Miami Shores, also a SpokesKid for Obama, worked in the Video for Change booth, which she described as “kids asking other kids what they think and how they feel about Barack Obama, and why he should be president.”

The children were videotaped and the tapes will be forwarded to the Obama campaign, Sydney said.

“We are hoping they will be available on You Tube,” she said.

“I don’t like what’s going on,” Sydney stated about environmental change. “It seems that people don’t really care anymore. Gas is too high, and people don’t like to pay money for things that just go into the air, and then pollute it all over again. Environmental change is important.”

Sydney added that Obama becoming president would be “a great thing,” and that George W. Bush has been in for eight years, “and that has not gone very well. We need change, and I really think Barack can make that happen.’’

Sydney also cited McCain’s age as a concern: “He [McCain] happens to be older. If something happened to him, then Sarah Palin would be our president. I don’t think she has enough experience to guide this country into good things.”

Photo by Mycha McDonald. Sydney Hannibal