About 20 Gold Star family members — survivors of fallen American service men and women — participated Monday in a tour of Capitol Campus in Olympia.
Their first stop: The Legislative Building’s State Reception Room for photos and autographs with Seattle Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse.
“These families in this community gave the ultimate sacrifice to fight for our freedom,” Kearse said.
The event, which was sponsored by 15 to 1: Jermaine Kearse Foundation, included tours of the Capitol Campus and an opportunity for families to meet Gov. Jay Inslee and state lawmakers.
“We’re incredibly thankful to have his (Kearse’s) partnership and to have the passion he has for military youth and children extended to us,” said Sarah Vargo, support coordinator with the U.S. Army Survivor Outreach Services. “This is something he is doing out of his own passion and love.”
Kearse, a Lakes High School and University of Washington alumnus, was raised in a military family, and his father and stepfather were stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He said he established the nonprofit that supports youths in military families to “give back to the community I was able to be a part of.”
During the reception, Kearse said he’s grateful for the Gold Star Kids.
“(I want) to let them know that they’re not alone, and I have their back,” he said, adding he is behind them 100 percent, as if they were his Seahawks teammates.
Kearse is due to become an unrestricted free agent March 9 unless the Seahawks sign him to an extension before then. He didn’t talk about his career options at Monday’s reception, but his fans did.
“Love that he’s a hometown player,” said Gold Star wife Catherine Trujillo Adriaansen, 30, of Bremerton, whose husband died of a service-related traumatic brain injury in April 2014. “We definitely want him to stay.”
Her son, Brian Trujillo, 13, wore a Kearse jersey to Monday’s event.
What was it like to meet one of his favorite NFL players?
“Amazing,” Trujillo said with a grin.
Michelle Kane, 37, of Allyn, said she believes Kearse’s involvement will help strengthen local Gold Star Kids and family programs. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Joseph Kane, died almost a decade ago during his second deployment to Iraq.
“To have somebody like Jermaine Kearse who has a major voice for this is pretty impressive,” Kane said. “We have (Gold Star) friends who live in other states, and their voice has been much bigger, but Washington state just hasn’t gotten there yet.
“And with his help, we will get there.”