Sat. Jun 15th, 2024
alert-–-missouri-fifth-grader-raises-$7,300-to-pay-off-his-entire-school’s-meal-debtAlert – Missouri fifth grader raises $7,300 to pay off his entire school’s meal debt

A Missouri fifth grader was honored for his compassion after he collected funds to help his underprivileged peers pay off their lunch dues.

Daken Kramer raised more than $7,300 for Thomas Ultican Elementary in Blue Springs, surpassing his original goal of $3,500, which was just over the total of the school’s debt.

The fifth grader announced his lofty aspirations in an April 12 video posted to his mother’s Facebook. 

‘This is my last year of elementary school,’ Daken said. ‘While I can never repay this school for all of the hard work that has gone into my education and well-being, I would like to do something to show my gratitude.’

He challenged friends, families and local businesses to donate to a PayPal link or give cash as part of a fundraiser called Daken Feeds TUE. 

Missouri fifth grader Daken Kramer raised more than $7,300 to pay off his elementary school's lunch debt

Missouri fifth grader Daken Kramer raised more than $7,300 to pay off his elementary school’s lunch debt

Roughly 29 percent of students in the Blue Springs School District are eligible for a free breakfast or reduced lunch

Roughly 29 percent of students in the Blue Springs School District are eligible for a free breakfast or reduced lunch

Daken explained that Thomas Ultican is a Title I school, meaning a large number of students hail from low-income families.

‘A lot of kids at school already benefit from reduced lunches, and some are not able to pay their lunch debt,’ he said. ‘Please consider helping these families relieve one stress from their lives.’

According to a district website, breakfast for an elementary student costs $1.85, while lunch is $2.55. For students under the reduced-price program, however, breakfast is free and lunch costs 40 cents.

Roughly 29 percent of the district’s 15,000 students are eligible for a free breakfast or reduced lunch, according to a district spokesperson.

‘Daken wanted to do something special as a thank you to his school, and has VERY high hopes for this project. I’m so proud of him for wanting to help others,’ Daken’s mother Vanessa Kramer captioned the video.

‘I know the goal amount is a lot, but there are a lot of families who are unable to pay off their debt.’

Daken's mother, Vanessa Kramer, shared his campaign video to Facebook last month

Daken’s mother, Vanessa Kramer, shared his campaign video to Facebook last month

The duo managed to raise over $7,200 on PayPal, plus more in cash donations

The duo managed to raise over $7,200 on PayPal, plus more in cash donations

Thomas Ultican is a Title I school, meaning a large number of students hail from low-income families and benefit from reduced-price meals

Thomas Ultican is a Title I school, meaning a large number of students hail from low-income families and benefit from reduced-price meals

Daken’s good intentions caught the attention of those in his community and beyond. The campaign spread to states like neighboring Arkansas and those as far as Florida and New Jersey.

In messages accompanying their PayPal donations, some people expressed how they connected personally with his mission.

‘Thanks for doing this kid,’ one man wrote. ‘I know what it’s like to sit in class with an empty stomach.’

Within a matter of two weeks, Daken’s fundraiser more than doubled its goal, and Kramer announced on May 11 that the mother-son duo had raised $7,470.

Over $7,200 had been collected through PayPal before the campaign ended, while Daken would continue to receive cash donations until his graduation on May 21.

‘We’ve seen donations come from people without kids, from homeschool or private school families, and A LOT of donations from other states,’ Kramer wrote.

‘This has been an eye-opening situation for a lot of people and I hope it makes people in power talk about universal school lunches.’

Daken managed to pay off his school’s debt, and the remaining amount was distributed to Blue Springs High School, another school in the district.

Daken managed to pay off his school's debt, and the remaining funds were given to Blue Springs High School

Daken managed to pay off his school’s debt, and the remaining funds were given to Blue Springs High School

His fifth-grade teacher Kristi Haley presented him with the Daken Kramer Legacy Award at his graduation on May 21

His fifth-grade teacher Kristi Haley presented him with the Daken Kramer Legacy Award at his graduation on May 21

Daken thanked school staff, administrators and Haley for being 'an amazing role model'

He was then bestowed with the award, kicking off a new annual tradition

Daken thanked school staff, administrators and Haley for being ‘an amazing role model’. He was then bestowed with the award, kicking off a new annual tradition

Daken explained that he wanted to do a good deed to express his gratitude 'for all of the hard work that has gone into my education and well-being'

Daken explained that he wanted to do a good deed to express his gratitude ‘for all of the hard work that has gone into my education and well-being’

At his graduation last week, the fifth grader was bestowed with the Daken Kramer Legacy Award, kicking off a new annual tradition. 

‘It was definitely a surprise. I had no idea that they were going to do that,’ Daken told CNN. ‘And I definitely started to feel a lot of emotions.’ 

The honor came as he stood on stage alongside an enormous check, thanking school staff, administrators and his fifth-grade teacher Kristi Haley for being ‘an amazing role model’.

Haley praised Daken’s ‘heart,’ ‘drive’ and ‘determination’ before making the surprise announcement that there would be an award in his honor.

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‘We are so proud of you for choosing to leave such an amazing legacy as you leave TUE,’ Haley said. ‘Needless to say, your selfless actions will impact dozens of students in our district.’

The pair embraced as she presented Daken with the eponymous award.

‘This will be an experience that stays with him his whole life,’ Kramer wrote on Facebook. ‘This has sparked something in Daken that makes him want to continue to change the world for the better.’

While Daken’s fundraiser took care of his school’s dues, the meal debt across 20 schools in the district amounts to more than $235,000.

Kramer told CNN that the mother-son duo are now working with a Missouri state representative to see if they can amplify their good deed.

‘I hope this fundraiser opened some eyes and raised awareness to a very serious problem in our country,’ Kramer wrote on social media.

‘It’s a nationwide issue, not just in Missouri. I hope this is a first step in making a change. I know government officials should be the ones making a difference. But I’m teaching my boys to be the change you want to see in the world.’

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