Today I went to the annual Investing In Our Children Luncheon for Children’s Friend. It’s the organization I work for and this was the 11th annual event. Before the luncheon begins there is a silent auction set up outside the Convention Center’s main ballroom. There are long tables with donated items attractively packaged with bidding sheets on clipboards sitting next to them. At least 100 guests were milling about, making their bids, greeting each other and sharing the joy of the event.
Walking into the ballroom you could see tables adorned with shiny, silver photo trees or balloon bouquets of orange, blue, purple and green, serving as centerpieces. I was able to act as a greeter to our guests: businessmen and women, leaders of non-profit organizations, community leaders, politicians, clergy, funders, volunteers and staff. I love being able to shake hands and give hugs to friends of the agency; who are so invested in the work we’re doing to support kids and families.
Today’s theme was Be a Champion for Children, and as I listened to the speakers I started to think about who, in my lifetime, has been a real champion for kids. The first thing that came to mind was, of all people, Captain Kangaroo! Yes, that Captain Kangaroo. I don’t know why he was the first thing that popped into my head. It almost felt like that moment in Ghost Busters when Bill Murray says clear your mind and don’t think of anything (of course we all know that ended with the Stay Puft Marshmallow man coming down 5th Avenue). In any event Captain Kangaroo was in my brain and I’ve been thinking about him ever since.
As a child, I watched The Captain most mornings. We all did. I think everyone one of the eight kids in my family can think of something they remember about the show. Whether it was Mr. Moose’s ping pong balls, or Bunny Rabbit’s carrots, or Mr. Greenjeans, Grandfather Clock and Magic Drawing Board; there was so much for a kid to learn and see when watching the show. So, why do I think Captain Kangaroo is a champion for kids?
A champion can be described as a person who fights or argues for a cause on behalf of someone else; proponent, advocate, promoter, defender. Bob Keeshan, who played the venerable Captain beginning in 1955 through 1980, was most certainly a champion. Captain Kangaroo never made kids feel less than in any way. He always shared positive stories of courage and openness; of cheer and hope. No kid, or grown-up watching over the top of the newspaper so no one could see them enjoying the show too, ever felt anything but good and uplifted after watching the show. There was nothing you couldn’t face if you knew that The Captain would be there the next morning to share a great story (like Mike Mulligan, Ping, Caps for Sale) or smile or joke to start the day. Captain Kangaroo set the quality bar pretty high for children’s shows of the time, and I’m sure has influenced many since.
I met Bob Keeshan back in 1997. He was doing a book signing at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont, where I was living at the time. I stood in line for about an hour with my copy of Good Morning Captain for him to sign. When it was my turn I approached the table, he stood up and shook my hand. I looked into the sparkling blue eyes that had clearly aged since I saw him on tv last. I thanked him for impacting my life and the lives of my siblings. I took my signed book home with me and now it sits on the shelf with all of my other favorite books, grateful to have had the chance to meet a true champion in person.
- Today in History: 1955. Captain Kangaroo Debuts (bmj2k.com)
- Captain Kangaroo’s Bunny Rabbit & Mr. Moose Puppets go under the hammer… (art-antiques-design.com)
- How many of you watched the Captain? Awesome memories (fggam.org)