While there are lots of kids who want to help others, there aren’t many who take their desire to the level the Floeder family has.
What started a decade ago with two siblings collecting money at school for Hurricane Katrina victims has evolved into a nonprofit that helps disaster victims around the world and the needy here at home.
That nonprofit, Kids to the Rescue (KTTR), was founded in 2005 by Andrew and Rachel Floeder and one of Rachel’s friends, with support from the Floeders’ mom, Deb. Younger brother David, 14, is now involved too.
“The idea was, kids could make a difference too,” said Andrew Floeder, now a junior at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights. “That if we got every kid in K-12 schools in America to give just $1, then that would add up to $55 million to help the hurricane victims.”
Within its first few years, the nonprofit raised $50,000 toward various causes, Andrew said. Since then, it’s been hard to track totals because the money is collected through the Salvation Army.
The Floeders still help out in disaster relief situations, from collecting money after the 2010 hurricane in Haiti to donating underwear to north Minneapolis tornado victims, but they have also made Thanksgiving cards for Marines in Afghanistan and collected coats for the needy locally.
“We don’t see the need that people have in front of us a lot of the time, and it’s just kids giving the littlest things that can make the biggest difference for other kids,” Andrew said.
Another major project since 2006 has been the “Send the Love” campaign, which encourages kids to donate $1 on Valentine’s Day to KTTR efforts. Last month, Andrew also made 500 valentines to give to veterans and children at a shelter.
Getting the kettles filled
And since the nonprofit partners with the Salvation Army, there’s a lot of collecting money in red kettles at Christmastime and when there is a specific need, like a natural disaster, he said.
With Rachel now at college, Andrew serves as the nonprofit’s lead organizer. Last month, he was recognized as a distinguished finalist in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
“It was kind of a shock, really, because there are so many people in the country who do so much more than me,” he said.
An early challenge for the nonprofit was finding a partner organization to collect and distribute the money, because the group doesn’t have tax-exempt status. Most nonprofits wouldn’t accept the small amounts of money they were collecting, Deb Floeder said, which was initially surprising to the kids.
But the Salvation Army was willing to collaborate. Now, there’s a link on the KTTR website so people can donate to the Salvation Army on KTTR’s behalf.
“We like to put kids forward as an example to others, too, to show that young people can get involved … and make a difference,” said Annette Bauer, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army’s Northern Division.
Today, Andrew often enlists fellow athletes from St. Thomas Academy to help him ring bells or do other projects. The St. Thomas Academy and Convent of the Visitation School communities have both been supportive over the years, Deb said.
For instance, when Andrew was behind on making valentines last month, he visited his former sixth-grade teacher, Ann Mattson, whose classes helped finish them, he said.
Mattson said she looks for such service projects to encourage kids in her religion classes to “look outward, beyond their immediate world, and to engage in global as well as local issues,” she said.
Deb said that while she initially thought the idea of her kids starting a nonprofit was “kind of crazy,” she’s always been generally supportive. Nowadays, though, she leaves most of the work to them, she said.
Andrew said it was his mom’s influence that made him want to help others — he remembers he even had his second-grade birthday party at Feed My Starving Children, and his whole class showed up to pack food. “They still got cake,” she joked.
Looking back, Deb said she’s glad her kids didn’t give up when things got tough or a fundraising idea didn’t pan out. “I’m not going to say I’m disappointed,” she said.
Bauer said the biggest contribution KTTR has made isn’t measured in dollars, but in getting kids to believe that what they do matters, so they will continue to give back later in life.
“A little bit at a time, that’s how most things get done, right?” she said. “People giving steadily, and caring steadily, is really what makes a difference in the world.”