When 5-year-old Sunshine Oelfke of Ishpeming, Michigan emptied her piggy bank and started counting out her money on the living room floor, her grandmother thought the kindergartener was playing. But then Sunshine put her money in a plastic bag in her school backpack. She told her grandmother, Jackie Oelfke, that she was taking the money to school so she could buy milk for her friend Layla, who didn’t have the money to buy milk.
Jackie was touched by her granddaughter’s empathy and generosity, and supported her decision to donate her savings to make sure other kids could buy milk. The kindergartener and her grandmother met with Sunshine’s teacher at last week and donated the $30 Sunshine had saved. But that donation was only the beginning.
Encouraged by an outpouring of support after she posted a video on Facebook detailing Sunshine’s interest in buying milk for her friends, Jackie took the project a step further and started a GoFundMe page to raise $700 to cover the cost of milk for Sunshine’s classmates for the semester. Within a week, she had raised more than $1,000, which was enough for every student in Sunshine’s class to get free milk for the rest of the year. The donations haven’t stopped and she's raised more than $5,000 so far.
Sunshine, who was saving up to buy a snowmobile when she decided to donate her money to her friends, doesn’t realize the significance of her generosity or the positive impact she has made on her school and the community. Jackie told CBS News that the kindergartener has learned from this experience that “she can do whatever she puts her mind to.”
While Sunshine might be one of the youngest people to start a fundraising campaign to help students, she isn't the only one raising money for school lunches. Seattle resident Jeffrey Lew started a GoFundMe account in May in an attempt to pay off the Seattle Public Schools outstanding lunch debt. At the time, the debt was more than $20,000. But Lew met his fundraising goal and decided to expand his fundraising efforts to the surrounding school districts in Tacoma, Spokane, Renton and Clover Park. By late August, he had paid off more than $100,000 in school lunch debt in five school districts.
“This issue is important to me because I really feel passionate about helping students do their best in school and not have to worry about food to eat,” the father of three told Today.
Want to get involved? Lew and a friend, Stephen Medawar, created LunchDebt.org to support lunch debt resolution campaigns across the country, starting with Washington state. To date, they’ve raised over $32,000 of their $650,000 goal.