By Lindsay Owens
---- — In the last few days I have had the privilege of meeting two local kiddos who go above and beyond what we expect from children. These children are not out for money or attention. They simply have one goal — to help others. I also learned of a harsh reality that many older Americans face each day.
I first encountered Gabriel, 6, at a Washington City Council meeting a few weeks ago. Gabriel had a plan. He wanted to send children living in the Dump in Honduras to school. After seeing photographs from his father’s trip to Honduras that depicted the life of children the same age as himself,who live and attend school in the Dump, Gabriel declared,”Let’s send them to school!” With that said, his parents, Ashley and Topher Wiles tried to explain to Gabriel that there was no way they could afford to send all the children living in the Dump to school but Gabriel had another plan. He wanted to have a race but not just any race. He wanted a 5K event.
An avid runner, Gabriel has participated in five races this year including the Race for the Son just last week where he ran the 5K. That’s right. The energetic 6-year-old ran the 3.1 miles instead of the one-mile fun run and now is working on a 5K planned for May 17, 2014. He has named his event Hustle 4 Honduras and all proceeds will go to help “send the kids to school” and build homes for the families living in the Dump. With the help of his friends, his event has YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as a website that will launch online registration for the race the beginning of the year.
Gabriel tells me that if the race gets 200 participants, one house can be built and five children can go to school. He’s also more than happy to tell you about the kind of house that will be built and anything else you could ever want to know about the race. To inspire others to train, Gabriel is even posting training tidbits on Facebook and Twitter each week.
Claire Fox is a spunky 11-year-old who, like Gabriel, has a heart of gold. She celebrated her birthday on Oct. 18 with canned goods instead of presents at her request. She told me she wanted to help her community instead of being selfish and getting gifts. And help the community she did. Just last week, Claire and her parents delivered a whopping 334 pounds of food (that’s over 300 items in case you were wondering) to Feed My Sheep.
In addition to Claire’s friends, family and neighbors, many of her classmates from her fifth grade class at Washington Catholic pitched in as well. A friend of her family also told some of his friends what she doing instead of gifts for her birthday and Claire received a card postmarked Colorado that said a donation had been made in her name to the Colorado Flood Victims Relief. A letter from an individual in Florida also was delivered and a donation in Claire’s name had been made to a food bank there as well.
It’s Claire’s hope that this will encourage others to donate to food pantries as well and she hopes to something similar for her 12th birthday.
No one told either of these kids to help send children to school or to sacrifice their birthday presents to help others in need. They just did. Its not because they wanted to be in the paper or because they thought it would make them “cool.” They did these selfless things because — well, they are that — selfless.
As the holidays roll around, I think this kind of puts things in perspective. There are so many people less fortunate than many of us. Some of them live in another country and work for pennies a day and would love to send their children to school. They sleep in piles on dirt “floors.” Others may be your neighbors. Think about that family whose sole income provider was laid off from work or had their hours cut back. We can help these people.
As far as the elderly go, earlier this week I wrote about the Build-A-Basket project through AngelWorx, a part of Generations. I’d heard about the program before but I never really THOUGHT about what the baskets provided. These baskets, which have toiletries, paper products, towels, laundry supplies and other things we often use on a regular basis without second thought, are delivered to clients in the Generations program. For many of the basket recipients, that gift - the shampoo, deodorant and laundry soap, will be the only gift they receive.
So next time you head to store, I’m asking you to think about the elderly on a fixed income who struggle to find the money to purchase items like soap and toothpaste that we pull from the cabinet and use every day. Or those who struggle to put food on the table.
Pick up an extra bottle of dish soap or some extra canned goods. Donate to the local food bank. Build a basket to give to someone in need. Plan to participate in the Hustle 4 Honduras.
It doesn’t matter what you give, how little or how small but if we all work together we can make a difference.
Lindsay is out purchasing her canned goods for the local food pantry, running shoes for the Hustle 4 Honduras and laundry basket for the Build A Basket project. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.