He's paid for tens of thousands of meals, all based on one experience.
For the majority of students, helping out a classmate for lunch entails sharing a snack, trading food, or, at most, buying them lunch occasionally with leftover credit on their lunch account. For Cayden Taipalus, a third grader living in Michigan, these approaches weren’t going to work when he suddenly became concerned about several students unable to afford hot lunches.
Cayden was at school one day when he witnessed his friend give up his hot lunch from the cafeteria because his lunch account balance was overdue and unpaid. Instead, the school gave him a cold cheese sandwich, which is better than nothing, but Cayden was upset for his friend nonetheless.
He went home that day and brainstormed with his mom about how to help other students at his school that faced similar situations everyday. They came up with a plan to first pay off all of the overdue balances by returning empty bottles and cans and soliciting donations from friends, family and neighbors. On Monday, Cayden presented the school with $64 to pay off 150 lunches.
“I am so very proud of my son. He is only 8 years old and to grasp the concept around this is just amazing in my eyes. He has a heart of gold,” his mom said.
What started as a small, selfless gesture quickly turned into a nationwide effort to help kids get hot lunches rather than just paying off past lunches. After a local radio station featured Cayden’s story, he set up a fundraising page that has since raised tens of thousands of dollars to ensure that each of the students in need can have a hot lunch everyday.
With the extra money, Cayden paid off the lunch accounts for hundreds of kids at other schools and then paid for thousands of future meals. In his most recent donations, he gave enough money to cover over 14,000 meals.
“We’re proud of Cayden’s efforts,” said Thomas Gould, director of public relations for Cayden’s school district told TODAY.com. “It’s such a great thing for an 8-year-old to see something like that and take the initiative to try and make a change.”
Though he continues to raise money online everyday, Cayden also does his part by recycling cans and bottles for money. He shows no sign of stopping, and kids at his school show no sign of being subjected to a cold meal again.
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