Monday, February 9, 2015

Is everything bigger in Texas?

Kenny Thompson has tutored and mentored students at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Houston, TX, for over ten years. One day last February (2014), he noticed that 60 students, including some he mentored, were eating cold cheese sandwiches for lunch because their lunch accounts were overdue. Many were already eligible for reduced lunch -- a hot meal for 40 cents a day.  Some children actually skipped lunch, claiming they weren't hungry, since a cheese sandwich stigmatized them as poor. "It was horrifying, it broke my heart. These are elementary kids. They're not bankers."

Kenny Thompson

His wife, who teaches at Valley Oaks, encouraged him to help the kids, but warned he would not be able to buy the new pair of Doc Martens he wanted. That didn't matter to him, so he paid off the cafeteria's negative balance -- all $465 of it. "It was the best gift I ever gave myself. I went out into my car and screamed," he said.

Houston residents heard of his generosity when the story aired on a local news station. Someone offered to buy him a new pair of work boots, but best of all, he heard of a woman who went to her school district office and asked to pay off the negative cafeteria balance "just like the man on TV." 

And then his story went viral. Within days he received donations from Australia, Europe and South America to help more kids. He quickly created a non-profit called Feed the Future Forward. Its purpose is to GIVE EVERY KID EQUAL STANDING IN THE SCHOOL LUNCH LINE. In the past year it has assisted 150,000 students in 141 schools. "They say everything's bigger in Texas," he said. "That means our hearts, too."

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