“A food-and-funds drive of this size, especially a food-and-funds drive done by students, is just unheard of.” – Matt Edmonds, Program Manager at Clark County Food Bank.
VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON – 11.2% of the population in Clark County, Washington, lives below the poverty line. Two teenagers are seeking to make a difference. 17-year-old Aidan Ryan and his 13-year-old sister, Erin, have managed a one-of-a-kind accomplishment: managing a food drive that has raised almost $110,000 for families in need in Clark County.
Alan Hamilton, the Clark County Food Bank’s executive director told Aidan Ryan and his sister, Erin: “This is kind of strange and odd and weird because this never happens where someone like yourself does so much good for helping people who are hungry in our community.”
The project was an entry-level lesson in finance for Aidan, who plans to study finance at the University of San Diego when he goes to college. He’s been managing Feeding Clark County, a charity campaign, with his little sister for two years. Focusing on maximizing impact rather than profit, and learning the best way to solicit donations, the siblings rallied fellow students in the area to raise the money for low-income families.
The whole thing began when Aidan started volunteering for a nonprofit called Courts for Kids. Courts for Kids builds basketball courts in impoverished countries, providing a safe place for kids to hang out and play. Aidan saw real poverty firsthand abroad. When he came back home and began volunteering with the Clark County Food Bank and at local homeless shelters, however, it was a big shock.
“For me,” the teenager explained, “that was kind of a big deal to realize poverty is something that’s in our local community. You really can’t help it in other places across the world until you can fix it in your own community. That was something that really inspired the whole project.”For Erin, the reality of the poverty in Clark County hit her when she saw a girl from her class at a local homeless shelter.
“It was kind of big to realize she stayed there,” Erin explained.
Erin rallied the girls at her school, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, to help with Feeding Clark County. Together, Alan Hamilton says she and her brother have helped hundreds of “real people with names and addresses and kids and lives” in Clark County and inspired thousands of other students to get involved.
The whole project has meant a lot to Aidan. He’s proud of his accomplishment, but he’s more proud of the impact that he, his sister, and all the other students have had on their community.
“You really don’t understand something until you either witness it or you can hear about it in a specific situation,” Aidan said. “Being in poverty, it’s something they can’t help. Being a kid, you shouldn’t have to worry about being hungry. You should be worrying about going to school and making friends and stuff.”
Preach it, kid.