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Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006 05:49 pm

The spirit of giving

Corporate America could learn from these children


Anyone looking for the true spirit of the American people should look directly into the hearts of our country’s children.

For example, consider our nation’s response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. While politicians held self-serving press conferences and corporations took out ads to pat themselves on the back for making donations, guess who quietly embraced the ethic of the Golden Rule, fired up their imaginations, rolled up their sleeves, and delivered tangible, uplifting assistance? The kids, that’s who.

A Web-based group called RandomKid linked up thousands of youngsters to help the children of Hurricane Katrina, not just in a one-time relief effort but instead in an ongoing, personal way. The latest tally of money raised is $10.2 million — more than what came from such multibillion-dollar corporations as AT&T, Chevron, Coca-Cola, GE, and Verizon.

Launched by 11-year-old Talia Leman of Waukee, Iowa, the Web site has enlisted children from some 5,000 schools in 36 states, channeling their idealism into grassroots activism. Every kid and every coin counts — they sell lemonade, wash cars, go trick-or-treating for small change — and it all adds up to real results.

In addition to money, the kids have been delivering essential school supplies, helping adopt out stranded pets, and running pen-pal efforts to connect personally with the hurricane kids who need help and a little love. Schools in Boise, for example, shipped 600 backpacks to the Gulf Coast, each containing a blanket, a book, snacks, school supplies, and a personal letter.

As one Louisiana girl said of RandomKid’s kid-to-kid approach, “You don’t have to be big to make a difference. You can be little, because a lot of ‘littles’ can make something big.” To learn more, go to randomkid.org.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.

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