Student, 8, makes keychains to raise $4K for school lunch debts
BATTLE GROUND, WA - A second-grade student presented his principal with a check for enough money to pay off his entire school's student lunch debt and give money to other schools for their debts.
The student, 8-year-old Keoni Ching, raised $4,015 by making kindness keychains that he sold for $5 each.
Keoni was inspired to raise money after hearing his parents talk about NFL star Richard Sherman's $27,000 donation to clear students' lunch debt last year and having a firsthand experience.
"I almost ran out of lunch money and then I thought about other kids that would run out of lunch money very quickly," Keoni told Good Morning America.
Keoni's mom, April Ching, said it surprised her 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."
Keoni and his mom decided to make keychains personalized with beads. They called the project Keychain Kindness because Keoni's school, Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, has a special kindness week each year.
Keoni started making key chains last December with the help of his whole family and has made more than 300 to date.
"I can’t even tell you how generous people have been," she said. "One gentleman 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," Ching recalled.
Keoni presented principal Woody Howard with the check during the elementary school's kindness week.
Keoni's school will receive $1,000 of the total amount and the rest will be distributed to six schools in the district to help pay off their lunch debts, according to Howard.
"The district [lunch] debt is about $140,000 for the entire district," he said. "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," Howard added.
Keoni said he plans to continue to make and sell keychains, this time 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," Ching said. "He doesn’t understand the magnitude of what he’s doing. He’s just helping."