BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Twelve-year-old Emma Weiskopf and her friends want to collect the names of children who are opposed to war, even if it means that some classmates will mock their attempts.
"It's kind of embarrassing because the kids in middle school think we're geeks," Emma said. "They're into music and makeup, and they think war is not going to happen. That's stupid."
Last year, Emma and a circle of friends started a group called Children Against War. Emma is president and sometimes holds officers' meetings after school or at slumber parties.
The group's official logo is a crayon drawing of a mushroom cloud surrounded by crying children. Emma and a friend wrote a song expressing their fears of nuclear war, and one verse says:
Little children out at play, On a bright and sunny day, One looks to see birds singing loud, And sees a giant mushroom cloud .
Asks for Letter to Join
Anyone 18 or under is eligible for Children Against War. To join, they must write a letter to let Emma know she's not the only one who is scared.
"We're the next generation and we won't be the ones who get to live if they drop a bomb," she said.
Emma and her friends admit they have a hard task. Once the group's cause was espoused at their school, they were left with the challenge of reaching other children in other towns, other states, even other nations.
"But it's really important to know you're actually doing something to help the world," said Ana Zorzopulos, 11, the group's secretary.
Children Against War has about 200 members.
"But I think a reasonable goal would be 10,000 kids," Ana said. "That wouldn't be too hard."
List of Names to Leaders
If Children Against War reaches whatever goal the group eventually sets, Emma said she would like to send a list of members' names to President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union.
For now, though, Children Against War is on the verge of an identity crisis.
"Some kids say they don't want to join because there's no point to it and it won't do any good anyway," Emma said.
The group's treasury consists of some dollar bills and coins--not enough to start a newsletter. Emma and her officers have inquired at the local library and shopping mall about setting up a table to pass out information and get new members.
Emma's father, Robert, was skeptical at first.
"I didn't pay much attention to this until she got some attention for it at school," he said.
Even some of Emma's classmates made fun of her attempts.
"Some kids think it's stupid and some kids say they want war, just to bother us," she said. "I don't know if they're serious or not, but they don't seem to know what the consequence will be."
Gets Citizenship Award
Emma's teachers, however, applauded her group's goal. A local television station gave her a citizenship award at a school assembly for her efforts.
After his daughter started receiving community attention, Emma's dad had a change of heart.
"This is the sort of thing that could have national scope," he said. "Kids like Emma and her friends have fewer ulterior motives. I think it's an original idea."
Children Against War started when Emma became curious about what would happen if nuclear weapons were launched against the United States.
"At first, I didn't really know that much about war," she said. "I asked my stepfather about it and he gave me all the answers and told me all the scary facts like, you know, how many people could die.
"I just got really scared."
Last year, Emma became convinced she should do something when her social studies teacher showed a film about Hiroshima.
"It was gross," she said.
Emma says the group's biggest problem may be apathy.
"Sometimes people think, 'Why bother, there's lots of other people who are doing it,' " she said. "But it doesn't really take anything on their part--just a letter."
(Emma Weiskopf can be reached at 3051 Ramble Road West, Bloomington, Ind. 47401.)