According to data from Feeding America, 1 in 6 children across the Heartland is considered food insecure. Sophia Franzluebbers—a 7th grader at Elkhorn Valley View Middle school—is hoping to change those statistics.
“I started volunteering at the Food Bank and we did BackPacks the first time. I was amazed at how many kids we helped after just one shift,” said Sophia. “I went back to my parents and said, ‘What if we did a fundraiser at my school to raise money for the Food Bank’?”
Sophia brought the idea to her principal two weeks before school ended in May of 2021. Elkhorn Valley View Middle School Principal Chad Soupir says this momentum was exactly what his students needed.
“When she first came to me, we were sitting in a pandemic and had so much happening. I took a step back and realized we really needed to do something positive. I thought this would be a great way to rally our school around a positive thing for other children,” said Chad.
Though he wasn’t sure how the students would respond, he said the process was a natural one that everyone embraced, shocking both him and Sophia with the results.
“We set a goal of raising $500 and we ended up raising more than $5,000 in one week,” said Sophia. The results gave this ambitious 13-year-old an even bigger idea—expanding the drive to another school and having the grades compete against each other.
“I talked to him in January of 2022 and said, ‘can we please try to do this again and maybe involve another school and make it a fun competition’?” said Sophia. “If our school raised $5,000 in just one week, maybe both schools together could raise $10,000!”
And she was right. With the additional help of President Schutt and students at Elkhorn Ridge Middle School—the two schools raised more than $14,000 together. Thanks to a generous match from Woodhouse Auto Family, those funds will be doubled, providing 170 children with BackPack meals for an entire year.
Chad can’t put into words why this fundraiser has taken off, but he has one guess. “Sophia has led this charge into something I never thought it could be. Her peers are inspired by her, and it makes them want to get on board.”
Both Sophia and her principal believe this act of kindness will make a lasting impact on the students. “It’s been a tough year for everyone. I’ve seen our students struggle with how to work together,” said Chad. “This allows students to witness the power of community and their ability to make an impact. I believe it’s going to give them that direction we lost because of COVID.”
Sophia is hoping that newfound direction will inspire more of her peers to give back. “What I’m doing is what anyone could be doing at their school or from their home. They can ask their principal for help; they can collect spare change in their neighborhood; they can volunteer for a few hours at the Food Bank. It really doesn’t take much to make a difference.”
That difference Sophia and her peers are making has inspired everyone, especially her principal. “Isn’t it so great to see kids helping kids?” asked Chad. “So many times, us adults want to step in…but when you empower these children to help others, it makes a bigger impact than we can ever do as adults. Maybe that’s the beauty of all this—that fact that it’s not complicated. It’s just children helping children.”