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Third-grader raises money for hot school lunches for low-income kids

Amber Peters

A  third-grader from Howell is making a big difference.

Eight-year-old Cayden Taipalus was upset when he saw a child refused a hot  lunch at his elementary school cafeteria because his lunch account was in arrears.

Instead, the child was served a sandwich with fruit and milk, the alternative provided free by Howell school policy when a student's overdue lunch balance reaches $5.

Amber Peters is Cayden's mother. She said he came home asking how he could help.

Peters said Cayden first raised $64 from family, friends and neighbors, and from bottle returns.

Then she and Cayden launched an online fundraising campaign to pay off the delinquent lunch accounts of low income students – with amazing results.

Peters said, "I can tell you as of this (Thursday) morning, we've paid for 8,500 reduced lunches, and our plan is to pay for all of Livingston County and move on to outer counties."

Peters said she and Cayden bring the money to the head of food services at each school.  She said the school then deposits the funds into the accounts of low-income students to pay overdue lunch bills, and to leave a balance for a cushion.

In two weeks, Cayden has raised well over $20,000 on the crowd-funding website FundRazr. 

Thomas Gould is the spokesman for Howell Public Schools. He said Cayden's efforts have been infectious.

"Everyone is thinking about ways they can help one another," Gould said. "Students are coming forward and saying, 'I want to make a difference. What can I do to help out other people?'" 

Cayden's mother said her son thinks this experience shows that a little thing can turn into a big thing and can go a long way.

"So if it's donating a dollar to someone or helping someone out with a chore they need done around the house, something little like that can mean a whole lot to someone else," she said.

Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom