(WASHINGTON) — Hundreds of school kids who have dreamed of visiting the White House on their spring break are now dealing with disappointment. Their plans have been dashed.
Less than 24 hours after the Obama administration canceled all White House tours indefinitely, parents and children from across the country have been speaking out about their frustration with Washington’s sequester.
Their message to lawmakers? “The White House is our house! Please let us visit!” chanted a group of a dozen sixth graders from Waverly, Iowa, on a call with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.
The group from St. Paul’s Lutheran School, just outside Cedar Falls, received the news of their canceled tour from the office of Rep. Bruce Bailey (D-IA) earlier Wednesday. They are headed for Washington a week from Friday, after months of fundraising and building excitement.
“It’s a major disappointment for them,” said Karen Thalacker, the mother of 12-year-old Malcom Newell, who was to go along. “Our kids have done everything we have asked them to do and more. Now for us to say something out of our control is making their White House trip impossible is really disappointing.”
Thalacker said the 16 sixth-graders are now launching a Facebook campaign to get the White House to open the doors.
“We’re not here to pick sides about who’s right and who’s wrong. We’d just like the people’s house to stay open so that not just our group but groups all across the country can come and visit the White House,” she told ABC News. “It’s very important. They’ll remember it for the rest of their lives. And unfortunately they may remember that this is a sign of their government if they didn’t get to go.”
That sentiment was shared by kids, parents and would-be chaperones all across the country in interviews with ABC News.
“My daughter is so upset we’re shut out of White House tour for her seventh birthday this month,” said Cobey Dietrich of Bel Air, Md. “She even dressed as president of the United States for career dress-up day!”
Rhonda Helms of North Olmsted, Ohio, said her teenage children — Bryan, 13, and Shelby, 16 — excitedly applied for a White House tour six months ago through the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Now, their trip in the first week of April will be missing what was to be its biggest highlight.
“Obviously, we doubt the situation will be resolved by the time of our visit to D.C. Very disappointing, to say the least,” Helms said. “I guess the closest we’ll get to the inside is watching The West Wing.”
Tamera Penning, a mother of two from Iowa City who home-schools her kids, said the situation is “very hard to understand.”
Penning and her daughters, ages 7 and 10, had been eagerly anticipating a walk through the White House’s historic halls later this month. Now, their tour is canceled — one of four arranged through the office of Rep. Dave Lobesack (D-IA) in Iowa’s 2nd congressional district.
“I don’t know why both sides can’t figure this out,” she said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Scott Stuntz, Teton Valley News
Stephen Collinson and MJ Lee, CNN
Dan Berman, CNN