A kind second grader used his free time to make and sell custom keychains, and then donated all of his profits to pay off the school lunch debt of his friends and classmates.
8-year-old Keoni Ching heard his parents talking about NFL star Richard Sherman, and how he had personally donated $27,000 to pay off a school’s student lunch debt, and it inspired a sense of compassion in him. While his mom always pays for his school lunches, there had been times when his balance had been low, and it had worried him. He understood the value of having enough lunch money, and he thought about his friends and classmates who he knew sometimes ran out of having enough to buy their daily lunch.
“I almost ran out of lunch money, and then I thought about other kids that would run out of lunch money very quickly,” Keoni said.
“Even though I paid [his balance] 30 seconds later, that is something that has still affected him,” Keoni’s mom, April, said. “It gave me an understanding from a kid’s perspective how hard that is.”
Keoni’s school, Benjamin Franklin Elementary, has a kindness week each year, and the kind young man thought that for this year, that he wanted to do something to help pay off the lunch debt of his fellow classmates who may struggle to afford daily meals. With the help of his parents, he was able to get materials to make keychains which spell people’s names and also various positive words. His plan was to sell them for a $5 donation, and then to give the proceeds to pay any outstanding lunch debt at his school.
Keoni made hundreds of keychains, and even his grandparents and his little brother spent some time helping him in his kindness project.
Many kind hearts purchased Keoni’s keychains, and one person whom the family did not know even donated $1,000 for a single keychain.
“I can’t even tell you how generous people have been,” Keoni’s mom said. “One gentleman [whom the family did not know] donated $1,000.”
“He just said that for an 8-year-old to want to do something so nice for other people, and have it be nothing more than wanting to help his friends at school, that touched him.”
After a few months of Keoni’s dedication, he was able to make and sell enough keychains to raise $4,015. During his school’s kindness week, he then presented the check to his principal, Mr. Howard, to be used to pay off his classmates’ lunch debt.
They used $1,000 to cover the lunch debt of some of his own school’s students who were most in need, and the other $3,015 was used to help pay off the lunch debt of vulnerable students in six other schools in their district.
“The district [lunch] debt is about $140,000 for the entire district,” Mr. Howard said. “The reality is if a family falls behind, and especially if they’ve got multiple kids, that debt can add up quickly.”
“I think the lesson here from Keoni is that when you see a need and then you go and address the need, people notice.”
Keoni has really enjoyed being able to do something to help his friends and other students in his community, and he’s planning to continue making keychains to benefit a local children’s hospital.
“When you see the joy that your child is getting from giving to other people, there really is nothing better than that,” his mom said. “He doesn’t understand the magnitude of what he’s doing, he’s just helping.”
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