People in red shirts with white hearts filled the streets and parks of Ashland on Saturday during the “I Heart Ashland” event, a day of community service organized by local Christian churches.
After months of coordination and planning, the “I Heart Ashland” movement kicked off at Ashland GracePoint Nazerene church with internationally recognized evangelical speaker Nick Vujicic, and concluded that night with another presentation by Vujicic at Ashland High School, with more than 2,000 people attending.
The event started Saturday morning with a short prayer and encouragement by Vujicic, after which people dispersed and began working around town. Volunteers were distributed across Ashland, with parents and children working side-by-side landscaping at Ashland High School, painting at Lithia Springs, clearing brush around fire hydrants for Ashland Fire and Rescue, and collecting canned food for the Ashland Food Bank, as well as projects in Phoenix and Talent.
Sponsored in part by Ashland Christian Fellowship, the “I Heart Ashland” project is a part of the larger “Heart Campaign,” based in Bend. The campaign’s objective is to show practical love to their local communities through days of volunteer service.
“I Heart Ashland” was supported by many local churches including the ACF, First Baptist Church of Ashland, Ashland GracePoint Nazerene, and Southern Oregon University’s Christian club, Soma. The mission statement on Soma’s Facebook page reads, “The Heart Campaign is a faith-based initiative whose goal is to facilitate positive change through days of volunteer service and dynamic community events.”
Vujicic was the featured presenter on Saturday. Originally the son a pastor from Brisbane, Australia, he was born without any limbs, a condition known as tetra-amelia. Vujicic was depressed by his condition during his childhood, to the point of attempted suicide. By his late teens, however, Vujicic became deeply religious and began his ministry,“Life Without Limbs;” a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting disabled people, motivational speaking, and spreading the love of Christ.
After the service projects were completed, participants migrated to Ashland High School gymnasium where a service featuring Bend-based band, Elliot, and another presentation by Vujicic. Attendance was uncertain, but the AHS gymnasium, which seats 2,750, was filled past seating capacity.