BROWN COUNTY, Wis. - Ben's Wish distributes 700 food packs every week to students in need in Brown County, but next year, the non-profit organization is being asked to double that. Leaders hope a brand new, one day fundraiser will help them reach that goal.
"We are the little kids helping the little kids. That's how small we are," explained founder Becky Delain.
Becky and her husband, Peter, started Ben's Wish nine years ago. They were inspired by the giving spirit of their son who tossed an apple to a homeless man on the side of the road. Two days later, 11-year-old Ben died in an ATV accident.
"We knew that someone upstairs wanted us to help the hungry and so we did."
The Delains hold food drive collections to stock local pantries, and they provide a weekend backpack program for children in five school districts in Brown County including Howard-Suamico.
"We see students that do come to school hungry," said Forest Glen Elementary School Principal Angie Sorenson.
She says that lack of fuel for the brain has negative effects on behavior and learning.
"It just takes over their ability to focus in the classroom. It takes over their ability to just function and be as best as they can be."
5th grader John Lowery is a Ben's Wish Ambassador. He's raising awareness of food insecurity in the De Pere School District.
"It's important to give this food to kids who are hungry so that they can do well in school and succeed in life, because if you don't get a good education, you're not going to have a very good job."
With the help of Ben's Wish, social worker Michelle Dahlke is able to hand out bags of food each Friday to 61 homeless students, so they don't have to fend for themselves on the weekends. It has meant the world to one third grader.
"At first the student was a little hesitant and embarrassed by it, but I reassured no ones knowing. It's just me. I'm just sticking it in your backpack so don't worry about it, and now every week she comes to me, 'What's in my backpack today? Do I get something good?'"
Still, more help is needed. 17% of children in the Howard-Suamico School District are on free and reduced lunch. Dahlke estimates another 400 to 500 children could use the help, but their parents don't want to ask for it or don't qualify to receive the services. That's where Ben's Wish can step in.
Now, the organization has been chosen to benefit from a new fundraiser called 'Give Big Green Bay.' For 24 hours only, you can go online and choose to give to 31 different non-profits including Ben's Wish. Donations will be matched up to $250,000. The campaign is a partnership between the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation and the Green Bay Packers Foundation.
"They are the big people, and I'm so glad that the big people are looking at the little people to help give them a platform to make a difference," said Delain.
The Give Big Green Bay fundraiser starts at noon on February 27th.
Delain plans to use the generous donations to help Ben's Wish fulfill a request to double the number of food packs, to 1,400, distributed next year. She says her son would be proud seeing how his one act of kindness is rippling through the community.