Fifth-grader pays off classmates’ lunch debt with fundraising effort


BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — Students at a western Missouri elementary school will not have to worry about paying their outstanding lunch debts as they prepare for summer vacation. A fifth-grade classmate picked up the tab.

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Daken Kramer, a student at Thomas Ultican Elementary School in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, raised more than $7,300 to erase his classmates’ outstanding balances — and those of an area high school, KMBC-TV reported.

“He decided that he wanted to leave a legacy here at Thomas Ultican, which is what we teach our kids,” Kramer’s teacher, Kristi Haley, told the television station on Thursday.

The 11-year-old boy’s original goal was to raise $3,500, CNN reported. But when he raised more than twice that amount, the rest of the cash was given to nearby Blue Springs High School, according to the cable news outlet.

“Children in elementary school should not have debt tied to their name,” the boy’s mother, Vanessa Kramer, told CNN. “We have found out that there are high schools that keep seniors from attending prom or walking at graduation if they have stuff like student lunch debt.

“Some families can’t help it. They can’t pay it off.”

Daken used a video posted to his mother’s Facebook account to make his pitch.

“I’d like to do something to show my gratitude,” he said. “I am challenging friends, family and local businesses to donate what they can to this cause.”

Vanessa Kramer reached out to school district officials to find out how much meal debt existed at the elementary school, CNN reported. The fundraiser took off, too, as donations rolled in from Florida, New Jersey and Texas and doubled Daken’s goal within two weeks.

That a fifth-grader could raise that much cash in the space of a few weeks was surprising. And school officials had a surprise of their own when Daken’s fifth-grade class graduated on May 21.

The boy learned that an award had been created in his name. The plaque naming future recipients of the Daken Kramer Legacy Award each year will now hang outside the front office, KMBC reported.

Haley announced the award during the ceremony, which will be given to a fifth-grader every year. Daken is the first recipient.

“Your selfless actions will impact dozens of students throughout the district,” Haley said.

Daken said he was surprised to be honored.

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

“We want to start teaching the fifth graders from day one next year what your legacy is going to be, and hopefully, we can continue this kindness,” Haley told KMBC.

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