Across the state, the number 11 is being scrawled on people’s faces, arms, jerseys and athletic shoes in honor of Jacob Wetterling, the sandy-haired boy who was kidnapped and killed but whose family wants him remembered for the way he lived.
The #11forJacob movement began this week when kids on a soccer team said they planned to honor Jacob by wearing his soccer jersey number on their uniforms. Within hours, the idea spread from high school athletes to pro ballplayers to honor the 11-year-old St. Joseph boy whose remains were recovered last week, nearly 27 years after he was abducted while riding his bike.
The number 11, however, is more than just a number, said Christopher Stauffer, a spokesman for Gundersen Health System, which works alongside the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. Jacob had a strong sense that people should be kind and fair, he said. So sporting the number is also a commitment to 11 things “that people of all ages can do so that we nurture a culture of kindness and compassion,” says the Resource’s Center’s Facebook post.
Tens of thousands of people immediately embraced the idea. Less than a day after #11forJacob was posted to the Resource Center’s Facebook page, it was “liked” more than 21,000 times, shared by 13,000 people and generated more than 500 comments.
Messages have poured into the Resource Center via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and phone calls, about people planning to wear the number 11 on the job, in the classroom, on the soccer field and during the Friday night football games, Stauffer said.
“People are feeling empowered,” he said. “But it’s not just about wearing the number 11. It’s about thinking about the 11 values that sound so simple but are so important and can make a difference in everyone’s lives.”
On Thursday, the Minnesota Twins joined the #11forJacob movement. The team announced its players will wear their red jerseys with a number 11 patch when they host Cleveland Friday night. The team will then auction off 11 game-worn jerseys with the 11 patch. The team said all the proceeds will go to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which is dedicated to helping victims who are abused, neglected, exploited or missing.
More than 9,000 people liked and shared the Twins Facebook post regarding the patch within an hour of it going up on the team’s Facebook page.
“We saw the family’s call to action and wanted to do our small part,” said Twins spokesman Dustin Morse. “We also want to support the family and honor the strength that they’ve shown.”
Morse said social media posts regarding the #11forJacob movement caught the eye of team officials during the sixth or seventh inning as the Twins played Kansas on Wednesday night. By Thursday morning, the team was scurrying to get a patch sewn, he said. The team also will hang a graphic in the outfield that will honor Jacob through the rest of the season, he said.
And at the University of Minnesota, fans entering TCF Bank Stadium for Saturday's football game will receive stickers emblazoned with the number 11. Goldy Gopher will wear No. 11 instead of the customary number 0, and the scoreboard during the first half will pay tribute to Jacob.
The number 11 also will show up Saturday as a part of social media posts for all the university's sports programs.