DARBOY — One dollar can go a long, long way to feeding the hungry, Greyson Peters, 9, has learned through one small act of kindness and a little help from social media.
On Sept. 7, he decided to do an “act of kindness” as part of Kindness Day at school, offering to pay for his friend Austin Slinger’s lunch. Austin was having lunch with his mother, Angela, and other friends at Woodland Elementary in Harrison.
“(He) handed me a $1 bill,” said Angela. “I asked him what it was for and he told me it was to help pay for my son’s meal. … He said, ‘Mrs. Slinger, this dollar is for you. If you use it the right way, you could feed the entire world.’
“I figured I must not have heard him right, so I asked him to repeat what he had said,” she said in a Facebook post. “While I know we won’t feed the world, I would love to challenge you each to match this third grader’s $1 (or more!) to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.”
The challenge to raise money for the hungry was on.
Held Sept. 10 to Sept. 30, the fundraiser wildly surpassed her expectations and thoroughly surprised Greyson, according to his mother, Sandra Peters. Greyson is the youngest of the six Peters children and has been watching his parents and siblings do service projects for many years.
“We are a servant-type family,” his mother said. Family members have gone on medical and other mission trips and have done fundraisers for the American Cancer Society. His mother has shaved her head for cancer twice.
The Peters are members of St. Mary Parish in Appleton and the children are part of the religious education program of St. Mary-St. Joseph parishes. Sandra said she has taught first faith formation and “one of the things we talk about is being kind. My goal as a teacher is to have the children walk out of the class and know that Jesus loves them no matter what. Then I have done my job.”
One of Greyson’s heroes, she said, is J.J. Watt, the former Wisconsin Badger who now plays for the NFL’s Houston Texans. He raised $41 million for Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas. “Greyson thought this was so cool,” she said. With this kind of role model, it is no surprise that he would be concerned with doing something for others, his mother said.
As Greyson’s family watched the total rise on the challenge campaign, they were amazed. Sandra got an email from Angela the evening the fundraiser started. She shared it with her son and by morning, the amount was already $600. He was astounded and “happy that he could help someone who is hungry,” she said.
In 24 days, the Facebook posting had gotten responses from people in all 50 states. There were 633 shares and nearly 800 people donated, raising a total of $14,302, which translates to 43,339 meals through Feeding America, she said. According to Feeding America, $1 equals about three meals.
In addition, Sandra’s employer, Menasha Corporation, gave $500 through its charitable foundation. “Everyone has been so generous,” she said. “Greyson’s response was that this was like a boy with a fish. In the Bible, one fish fed 5,000 people. One little act of kindness could do this.”
The effort also had a spinoff in New Jersey, where another mom started something similar and raised $250, which is equivalent to 758 meals.
Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin is the leading hunger-relief organization in Wisconsin, operating food banks in Milwaukee and the Fox Valley (located off I-41 between Appleton and Little Chute). Its mission is to improve access to healthy and nutritious food for those facing hunger, as well as defining and solving root causes of hunger in our society.
The Wisconsin organization is part of the national Feeding America, which has a network of more than 200 food banks across the country. In Wisconsin, there are 600 member organizations that provide food to nearly 400,000 people a year.