National Cherry Blossom Festival Supports Japan

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GAITHERSBURG, Md. (PR Newswire) — As the world comes together to support the victims of Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami, the U.S. capital is also preparing to commemorate Japan’s 1912 gift of cherry blossom trees to the U.S. with the 99th annual National Cherry Blossom Festival (March 26 to April 10).

Sodexo Inc. is supporting Japan by upholding the festival’s focus on friendship, multicultural education and the environment with its sponsorship of the Youth Ambassadors Program and Youth Poster Art Contest for 2011. To demonstrate its support for quake-stricken Japan, the festival will donate a portion of the profits from the $5 street festival entrance fee to the American Red Cross.

The Sodexo executive team feels that this year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has a significant meaning for all Americans, because it is an opportunity to reflect on the recent events in Japan and offer condolences, friendship and support. Now more than ever, it will be important to continue making advances in educating students about the importance of diversity and friendship as the U.S. helps Japan rebuild its infrastructure and return to normal life.

Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is the official harbinger of spring, attracting more than a million visitors to share in Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees, which remains important as a universal symbol of goodwill and friendship. The 16-day festival includes diverse and creative programming promoting traditional and contemporary arts, culture, education and the environment.

Now in its fourth year, the Youth Ambassadors Program helps to educate Washington’s youth (focusing on fourth- and fifth-graders) about the cultural and international significance of the cherry blossom trees in their communities. Through the program, students learn more about their local history and Japanese culture. They come to understand the importance of the care and maintenance of the trees and help spread the messages of goodwill and friendship.

Additionally, the Youth Poster Art Contest invites students from D.C. public and charter schools in grades K through 12 to participate by submitting a poster they design about the cherry blossom trees and their message of goodwill and friendship. Entries are judged by a panel, and winners are selected in age-specific categories, as well as one “best-of contest” winner.

Winners are acknowledged and treasury bonds are awarded at a special pre-festival ceremony including the winners’ families, teachers, and festival, D.C. government, and sponsor representatives.

To learn more, visit: www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.

Sodexo Inc. (www.sodexoUSA.com) delivers on-site service solutions in corporate, education, health care, government, and remote site segments, as well as motivation solutions such as Esteem Pass. Sodexo Inc., headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., funds all administrative costs for the Sodexo Foundation (www.SodexoFoundation.org), an independent charitable organization that, since its founding in 1999, has made more than $15 million in grants to fight hunger in America.

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