A sweet donation
Two dollars and 25 cents is a lot of money for an 8-year-old boy.
South Newton Elementary School third-grader Brendan Young raised $2.25 in August during Soldiers Reunion by selling popsicles to ease the summer heat.
Instead of keeping the hard-earned cash to himself, he donated it to Newton-Conover City Schools' backpack program, which ensures no student goes without food when school isn't in session.
"It gives me that feeling that I feel good for doing it," Brendan said of his donation.
The backpack program provides weekend meals and snacks for underprivileged students throughout Catawba County. Students receive the food in numbered backpacks every Friday. The packs contain food like macaroni and cheese, canned goods, toaster pastries and fruit cups.
The backpack program, through support of local businesses and other donors, can feed a child for one school year for $90.
Selling popsicles during Soldiers Reunion, however, was more difficult than Brendan expected.
His sales started strong, but when a group of clowns started giving popsicles to the crowd free of charge, Brendan's sales started to decline.
"We sold pretty good at first because it was hot out," he said. "At least we got some money."
This isn't Brendan's first endeavor into raising money for a good cause. Since he was about 4 years old, he has asked that, instead of birthday gifts, he receive donations to a charity of his choice.
"He has always been very compassionate with his classmates, even when he was in pre-school," said Brendan's mother, Debra Young.
Young said she spoke with Brendan at a young age about how not all children are as blessed as he is. She suggested, instead of receiving gifts, Brendan pick a charity and ask his friends and family to donate money or other items to the organization's cause.
"Every year, he whole-heartedly gives," she said. "(My husband and I) are wonderfully blessed. He is a great, Christian young man."
Brendan's ninth birthday is Nov. 13, and this year, Brendan's charity of choice is the backpack program.
Almost 100 students at South Newton and Thornton elementary schools receive backpacks each weekend.
Jennifer Benedikter, a teacher assistant at Newton-Conover High School, helps load canned goods and supplies, like those purchased with Brendan's money, into backpacks for elementary students in the school system.
Benedikter's students use the task of loading backpacks as a learning experience; teaching students how to count, stock, organize and load the backpack supplies.
"If anyone wants to donate, they're more than welcome," she said.
The program always needs more food for students. Individually packaged items, like granola bars, as well as canned goods and crackers are also needed.
Brendan will participate in a yard sale Dec. 4 from 8 a.m. to noon to benefit the Kids in Need Fund and the backpack program. The yard sale is located at Living Water Bible Church on the square in downtown Newton.
"I'm thankful because you should be (thankful)," Brendan said. "Some children are starving, and they're dying because they don't have food to eat."
Young said Brendan's interest in the backpack program started when he noticed a classmate receive one of the backpacks every week.
"Even though he can't comprehend what it's like to go hungry, I told him that not everyone was as fortunate," Young said.
The message obviously hit home for Brendan, because he said he will continue to give back to the community for years to come.
"I think I'll keep on doing it until I'm really old," he said, "like maybe 40 or something."