Howell, Michigan (located halfway between Detroit and Lansing) is a town of about 9,500 people. It’s a lower-middle-class working community, where men leave every day to support their families, and women find work in the industries that will have them. Fewer than 4% of Howell residents live below the poverty line, but those who do find that Howell knows how to take care of its own. At least, they do if one little boy is any example of the town’s spirit.
Some time back, 8-year-old Cayden Taipalus stood in the school lunch line at Challenger Elementary, and witnessed a fellow student receive a “sandwich” comprised of two slices of dry bread and a single, thin slice of cheese. Cayden, his own tray heaped with a school-spec but hot lunch, shared his classmate’s pain and disappointment. The classmate’s school lunch account was more than $5 in the negative, and in Michigan, that means an “alternative” lunch.
Something had to be done.
Cayden came home that day and told his mother, Amber Peters, of the cheese sandwich incident, and asked her if anything could be done. The two came up with “Pay it Forward — No Kid Goes Hungry.” According to Cayden, he just “wanted to help kids have a better lunch.”
Cayden began calling his friends and family, trying to raise money to pay off the school lunch accounts of the kids whose accounts were in the negative. After hitting Facebook and tapping all willing souls available, he hit the streets to raise more money, collecting cans and bottles, turning them in for the recycling fee. At the end of the drive, Cayden and his mother raised enough money to bring every delinquent student’s account back into the positive, enough for over 150 lunches at Challenger elementary prices.
He collected $64. And some change.
In a way, it’s easy to slip into a kind of sad disgust over that figure. To any of us, the amount of money required to buy 150 school lunches for poor students would barely cover a decent dinner out and the gas to get there. Two steaks, an appetizer and a couple of drinks — that’s 150 lunches. If you’re the type inclined toward cynicism, you might slip away from thoughts of Cayden’s philanthropy and into the malaise of wonderment that nobody old enough to have an actual job could be bothered to part with what only an 8-year-old would call an “impressive sum of money.” But, let’s not go there for now, because Cayden certainly didn’t stop at $64 and change.
Indeed, through his FundRazr campaign, Cayden’s charity has to date collected a whopping $13,378 to feed the hungry children of Howell, Michigan. He’s already added enough money to the accounts of the hungry children at his school to ensure that they will never again see a cold cheese sandwich for lunch, and just this morning paid off more than 4,000 lunches for students throughout the six elementary schools in his area. Cayden hopes to raise enough money to spread his program all through Livingston County, and if almost $15,000 raised in less than a week is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before he can do exactly that.
These days, you can’t swing a cat on AATTP without running into the latest story on the the Grand Old Tea Party’s war on the poor, or the siege tactics it uses to starve the masses into a willingness to work for pennies and fight in the street for scraps. Titans of industry need us desperate enough to not merely accept dominion, but thank them for it. The Koch Brothers and their corporate friends revel in stories of corporate subsidies that come at the expense of Food Stamps and school lunches; not only for the obvious monetary benefits, but because it puts them that much closer to starving us into surrender. But if awesome little men like Cayden Taipalus are any indication, they’re going to be waiting a long time before the besieged walls of America’s heart fall to dust.
And even then, they can keep their damned cheese sandwiches.
h/t: ABC News