This 8-year-old boy just presented his school with a $4,015 check as a donation to pay for his entire school’s lunch debts.
The second-grade student, Keoni Ching, raised money by making key chains and selling them for $5 each. With the help of his parents, April and Barry Ching, his younger brother, and his grandparents, he was able to produce a total of 300 key chains since they began working on them last December.
The boy was first inspired to pay it forward when he heard his parents talking about Richard Sherman – the San Francisco 49ers cornerback who donated more than $27,000 last year to clear students’ lunch debt. Though a Miami Dolphins fan, Keoni wanted to emulate the NFL athlete’s generosity.
He also had a first-hand experience almost running out of lunch allowance.
“I almost ran out of lunch money and then I thought about other kids that would run out of lunch money very quickly,” Keoni, of Vancouver, Washington, told Good Morning America.
April was surprised when her son brought up his own experience with an overdrawn lunch balance.
“Even though I paid [his balance] 30 seconds later, that is something that has still affected him,” she said. “It gave me an understanding from a kid’s perspective how hard that is.”
To raise money, Keoni thought of making key chains using personalized beads.
“I love key chains. They look good on my backpack,” he shared, also saying that he wanted to help others because “it just makes the world a better place.”
They dubbed the project Keychain Kindness because his school, Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, commemorates a special kindness week each year.
As soon as word spread about Keoni and his charitable cause, a flood of supporters started sending them key chain requests.
“We have sent key chains to Alaska, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Arizona, all over the country,” April told CNN. “There was one lady who said she wanted $100 worth of key chains so that she could just hand them out to people. … There were several people who bought one key chain and gave (Keoni) a hundred bucks. It was absolutely amazing how much support the community showed for his whole project.”
All their hard work paid off as Keoni was able to present a $4,015 check to his school’s principal, Woody Howard.
Although Franklin Elementary only owed $500 in cafeteria debt, the school will receive $1,000 of the total amount so that they could account for any future debt that may accumulate. The rest will be divided among six nearby schools to help other students pay for their lunch debts.
“The district [lunch] debt is about $140,000 for the entire district,” the principal told GMA. “The reality is if a family falls behind and especially if they’ve got multiple kids, that debt can add up quickly and can really sneak up on you.”
“I think the lesson here from Keoni is that when you see a need and then you go and address the need, people notice,” he added.
Keoni’s act of goodwill doesn’t stop here. He says that he plans to make and sell more key chains and this time, the donations will go to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
As a parent, April couldn’t be prouder of what Keoni has done at such a young age.
“When you see the joy that your child is getting from giving to other people, there really is nothing better than that. He doesn’t understand the magnitude of what he’s doing. He’s just helping,” she said.
Keoni’s wonderful gesture has helped a lot of struggling families all over his district. We hope that his story inspired you to perform your own act of goodwill!