It’s a lesson that parents often try to teach young children – a simple way to learn about personal finances. Saving for something can be hard, but it also teaches a child to be independent and to understand the importance of restraint. However, when a Michigan grandma found out about her granddaughter’s spending plans, she felt the need to step in.
Like many children her age, five-year-old Sunshine Oelfke from Ishpeming, Michigan, was saving up for something. When she received her allowance, she would put some of it aside. And Sunshine had that classic money-saving device: a piggy bank, not to be opened before time.
This was why her grandmother, Jackie Oelfke, was so surprised when little Sunshine began emptying the piggy bank’s contents out on the floor of their living room. The money, Jackie thought, had been earmarked for a snowmobile. It was a big purchase and one that would require a lot of saving up.
Sunshine began counting out the money she’d saved, as if she was planning on spending it. However, it was far too little for a snowmobile. With this in mind, Jackie was curious about what had caused the little girl to dip into her savings so soon.
At first, the loving grandmother figured Sunshine was just playing around with the money. For one thing, Sunshine put it all in a plastic bag and sealed it up. But when the young girl went on to place it in her backpack, Jackie had to ask what Sunshine was doing with it.
And in keeping with her strange actions, Sunshine then said something rather unusual. She told her grandmother that she intended to take her hard-won savings to school. When Jackie asked why, the answer almost brought her to tears.
“[Sunshine] said she was taking it to school for milk,” Jackie informed TODAY. “I explained that I had already paid for her milk for the month. Then she looked at me and said, ‘My friend’s mom doesn’t have milk money, and I do.’”
This little girl had decided that a snowmobile could wait. Instead, Sunshine was taking her savings to make sure that a friend of hers could have some milk at school. Her grandmother was completely stunned at the kindness and generosity being displayed by her granddaughter.
Jackie subsequently decided to accompany Sunshine to school and was on hand to help tell the teacher what the cash was for. Rita Hausher, the kindergarten teacher, was very moved by the gesture. And she might even have inspired Sunshine herself.
As it turns out, Hausher also goes above and beyond for her little pupils on a regular basis. Like many teachers, she helps her class by using money from her own pocket when there’s a shortfall. And this includes paying for milk for some of the children who don’t have the funds for their own.
Children in Sunshine’s class pay 45 cents for a carton of milk per day, costing parents around $9 per month for their child. However, half the pupils don’t receive milk. And in some cases, such as that of Sunshine’s friend, it’s because their parents can’t afford to pay for it.
“I have always felt sad when I have had to tell a student, ‘No,’ when they ask if they can have milk,” Hausher told TODAY. And she strongly sympathised with Sunshine wanting to help her friend. Moreover, what the young girl didn’t know was that this small act of kindness would kick off something much larger.
Jackie wanted to tell the world about her granddaughter’s actions, so she posted a video on Facebook. In it, Jackie described the recent events and even became a little teary over them. What’s more, viewers soon began to offer unsolicited donations to pay for pupils to have milk.
Recognising that these strangers wanted to do a good deed, Jackie set up a donation page on a crowdfunding site, thinking that if she could raise $700, she’d be able to pay for all of the children in Sunshine’s class to have milk. Indeed, that amount would cover them for the whole of the school semester.
Instead, though, something quite remarkable took place. Donations hit the $700 mark – and then massively exceeded that amount. In the span of only two weeks, an incredible $6,000 was handed over, meaning that all 20 children would be able to have free milk all the way to the year’s end.
That’s why one day, Sunshine came home from school with great news. She delightedly informed her grandmother that not only did her friend now have milk money, but the rest of the class also had milk, too. And it had all started with Sunshine’s own small gesture of kindness.
“She doesn’t understand the impact she’s made,” Jackie said. “But now she knows she can do whatever she puts her mind to. Milk is important in our family, so it’s very important for Sunshine’s friends to have milk with her.”
It’s a testament to her grandmother’s parenting skills that Sunshine has turned out so well, in light of the youngster’s somewhat problematic family life. Sunshine’s mom is a drug addict, in fact, and has been to prison several times, meaning she hasn’t always been there for her daughter.
Jackie acknowledged that while this situation might not be affecting Sunshine directly right now, it could potentially cause problems later on in her life. “She’s going to have enough issues growing up with this,” Jackie said. “I’ve never told her she can’t do something, and I didn’t want to start now.”
It’s heartwarming to see that her background hasn’t held Sunshine back, at least in terms of her personal development. All of her classmates now get to have milk on their breaks. Sometimes a small gesture can become a big event, and all it takes is one person to get it all started.