Apr 272011
Authors: Allison Sylte

In the war-torn regions of Congo, Africa, boys who are too young to carry a gun are deployed to the frontlines of battle carrying only a whistle to alert the rest of the soldiers if opposing troops are advancing.

More than 7,000 miles away, in Fort Collins, a group of CSU students are carrying their own whistles to give these boys a voice.

“We view their weapon as a protest, and wear it as an item that gets talked about and raises awareness,” said Brittany Lynn Ricketts, a junior pre-landscape architecture major and a member of the CSU Whistler Society.

The Whistler Society, which was started this year by senior apparel merchandising major Laura Schmalstieg, is an extension of Falling Whistles, a national organization aimed at selling hand-made, vintage whistles to benefit relief efforts in Congo.

Falling Whistles was founded by Sean Carasso, an American who was visiting Congo during what he thought was a short detour from other philanthropic efforts. After hearing the stories of the whistle-blowing children in Congo, he was inspired to write a diary entry that eventually led to the creation of Falling Whistles.

Schmalstieg and Ricketts created CSU’s chapter after a chance meeting with Carasso. This meeting led them to recruit friends and other activists on campus to join the organization.

“What was inspiring about Carasso was that he used his passion to make a real difference,” Schmalstieg said. “And I think that it’s important to make the campus more aware, and to realize how lucky we are to have what we have.”

The society, which currently has 10 members, hosted a benefit concert on Sunday night at Hodi’s Half Note, and in between whistle and ticket sales, raised more than $1,200 for Congo.

Tonight, the Whistler Society will be at the Fashion Group International’s “Recycled Fashion Show,” to hopefully sell more whistles to benefit the organization.

“Falling Whistles combines apparel and activism, two things that serve the event well,” Schmalstieg said.

Schmalstieg is interning this summer at the national chapter and said that after graduation, she hopes to continue using apparel to make a difference.

“I’ve fallen in love with being able to help people, and I want to keep doing that in the future,” Schmalstieg said. “I also want to play a part in perpetuating an image of social responsibility in the fashion industry.”

Ricketts, who will take the reigns of the CSU Whistler Society after Schmalstieg graduates, said that being involved with Falling Whistles has been a life-changing experience.

“If nothing else, it’s taught me that we have so many privileges as Americans, and we have to appreciate what we have,” Ricketts said. “And I’ve also learned that for the people who don’t have what we have, we ought to help them get those opportunities.”

News Editor Allison Sylte can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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