Riding home from school in the car with his mom last week, Harrison Tannenbaum received a call from World Food Program USA (WFP USA) with some exciting news.
Stephanie Tannenbaum submitted a Goal to Be Greater to Parent Toolkit this year on the behalf of her 12-year-old son, Harrison, with the hopes of winning money to donate to charity. And guess what? They won the challenge!
“Are you serious?!” Harrison exclaimed, flabbergasted, when he received the news in the car.
“Stephanie very generously let us deliver the news; we FaceTimed him!” MJ Altman, Editorial Director of WFP USA, told Parent Toolkit. “The way this child’s face lit up…you could really sense the joy of giving! That joy of giving from one child to another is so inspiring. It made my year! It’s so rare that someone like him is recognized in such a big way.”
Both NBC News’ Parent Toolkit and their sponsor, Pearson, are donating $2,500 apiece to Harrison’s WFP USA fundraiser, a total of $5,000 going to feed kids who are hungry through WFP USA.
Harrison started a fundraising project with WFP USA for his Bar Mitzvah, which will be in April 2017, asking his friends and family to donate to his cause in lieu of receiving gifts. Harrison said he was inspired by the Jewish concept, “Tikkun Olam,” which is Hebrew for repairing the world.
“It hurts inside to know people are hungry around the world,” Harrison said. “I think I can make a difference because I can encourage other kids and families to donate and give back.”
Harrison worked with his friends and principal from his elementary school, MacFarlane Park International Baccalaureate IB School, in Tampa, Florida, to produce a video that highlights the inspirational idea that it just takes one kid to make a difference.
“Me and my friends who did the video know how lucky we are. It’s important to do [service] and it makes us feel good. You want to have that feeling that you did something good,” Harrison said. “What I learned the most is [about different] cultures, and how many people do not have the same treatment that I have. They don’t have food to eat and here [for me] it’s like I can get a snack anytime I want.”
The $5,000 donation will go directly towards feeding kids, Altman said, translating into 20,000 school meals for kids in need.
“$5,000 has such a tremendous impact,” Altman said. “Every single dollar, quarter, cent adds up and has a huge impact. But a donation this large, coming from the fundraising efforts of a child, is truly incredible.”
1 out of every 9 people worldwide suffers from chronic hunger, according to WFP USA.
“Teaching kids about hunger is such an important lesson in privilege and giving,” Altman said. “It’s something that resonates when you see a child that young being so thoughtful and wanting to give back.”
For Harrison, giving back has always been part of his “make-up”, his mom says. He started giving to WFP USA when he was just six years old, asking for money to donate for his birthdays for the past six years.
“Yes, they are just kids and sometimes there’s this overwhelming feeling of ‘oh, what can I do? I’m just one person, I’m just a kid, I can’t affect change.’ We try to make them understand that every single person can affect change. And every kid has something they can do,” Tannenbaum said.
Harrison and his mom went out to lunch with one of his friends shortly after receiving the news of winning the Goal To Be Greater contest and told him all about what he’s been working on in community service. Harrison recalls his friends saying, “Wow! I realize I need to do more!”
“If I do something that makes a change in someone else’s life and it’s a good change…that’s what I work for, that’s why I work for [these projects],” Harrison said. “I enjoy motivating others and I get to share that feeling.”
Harrison’s mom has been his number one supporter every step of the way. She helped Harrison compile hours of footage to submit the video and has helped Harrison and his friends organize many community events in the past, like charitable garage sales and donating old clothes.
“Sometimes people feel resistance because it can seem overwhelming,” Tannenbaum said. “So we do something, have fun with it, and we make a difference. It can be easy and it can be fun! It doesn’t have to be daunting.”
“Without my mom, I wouldn’t know how to do it,” Harrison said. “She’s given me advice on how to do it. She’s the greatest mom!”
Now in middle school, Harrison hopes to continue raising money for WFP USA until his Bar Mitzvah in April and focus on hunger-related service.
“Kids really are the future, I know that sounds corny,” Altman said. “People like Harrison and his friends are going to be the future business leaders and political leaders. Having kids like Harrison with a global understanding of food and hunger and who really take that lesson to heart is going to be really important for the future of not just this country but the entire planet.”
“Quality is always better than quantity,” Harrison said. “I’m just one kid, and I can make a difference. Like my video said, one kid at a time!”
If you are interested in donating to Harrison’s project, visit his fundraising page on the World Food Program USA website.
*Photo courtesy of Stephanie Tannenbaum