In the case of 8-year-old Cayden Taipalus, a third-grader at a Michigan elementary school, the euphemism will warm your heart – and the stomachs of some needy Michigan kids, who without his efforts, would be eating cold cheese sandwiches.
The third-grader at Challenger Elementary School in Howell has launched an online fundraising campaign called “Pay It Forward: No Kid Goes Hungry,” which has raised thousands of dollars to buy lunch for classmates whose families can’t afford it.
Cayden witnessed a classmate being turned away from getting a hot lunch in the school cafeteria because he didn’t have money in his lunch account and was instead given a cheese sandwich.
“That upset the child along with my son,” Cayden’s mother, Amber Melke-Peters wrote on the FundRazr.com page set up to receive donations.
The hand-wringing continued when Cayden got home and the family came up with the Pay It Forward fundraising ideas. He gathered returnable cans and bottles from friends, family and neighbors and came up with enough money to not only pay off some of his schoolmates’ delinquent lunch accounts, but also provide a cushion for the future.
Response to Cayden’s campaign has been so positive that he’s now extending the campaign to some other elementary schools in Michigan’s Livingston County, where nearly 30 percent of students are enrolled in the federal free- or reduced-lunch program.
The campaign got a big national boost from national news coverage.
As a result, donations are pouring in $20, $100 and $500 at a time and Cayden’s campaign stood at $14,340, just a couple of thousand dollars shy of of his $16,500 goal – 23 days before it is set to expire.
Cayden has become one his mother’s personal heroes. He’s nonchalant about the attention and “just sees that the money equals lunches for children,” Melke-Peters told ABC News.
"I am so very proud of my son," she said. "He is only 8 years old and to grasp the concept around this is just amazing in my eyes. He has a heart of gold."
Each morning, Cayden takes donations to different schools before reporting to his own class. The first week of his campaign, he turned in $64, which paid for about 150 lunches.
"Doing something little can turn into something big and go a long way,” his mom said. “Paying it forward is a big deal.”
It’s a very big deal, said Howell Public Schools spokesman Thomas Gould
"What Cayden is doing is very generous and it shows how caring all of our students are," he said.
Gould said that even when they can’t pay, students are offered a lunch of a cheese sandwich, fruit and juice, “no matter what.”
Melke-Peters said it’s bothersome to some students to see their classmates eating a a cold meal while their peers are enjoying French toast, milk and juice.
“The idea is to remove the negative stigma,” she said.