At the young age of 11, Jonathan Crider was already showing signs of what it means to be a hunger all star. After hearing a public service announcement on his local radio station in Marlow, Oklahoma – he was shocked to learn that there were kids his age, living near his hometown, who were going hungry. Many of these kids had little or nothing to eat after their free lunch at school on Friday until their free breakfast at school on Monday. How, he thought, could he not know about this?
Fortunately, Jonathan also heard some encouraging words in that PSA. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Food 4 Kids program was providing backpacks of nutritious food to these same kids every Friday throughout the entire school year.
After telling his parents that he wanted to find a way to help these kids, Jonathon met with the Deputy Superintendent of Lawton Public Schools, Dr. Linda Dzialo, who is also the chairperson of the Lawton Food 4 Kids program. With Dr. Dzialo’s support, Jonathon decided to set a goal of raising $135.00 – the cost to provide a backpack to one child for an entire school year. After organizing a penny drive at his school, mowing lawns and working for his dad, he raised more than $700! He then decided it was time to start telling others in his community about this problem and how they could help. He accompanied Dr. Dzialo and spoke to civic organizations and the local media telling people about Food 4 Kids and what they could do to help. He challenged everyone in the community to sponsor just one backpack for one child for one year. He even stood before the local Rotary Club and told them “I’ve raised $135 to provide a backpack for a kid for a whole year…what are you going to do?” The members couldn’t pull out their checkbooks fast enough!
In 2006, Jonathan spent three months of his own time organizing the first ever “Rock-A-Thon” at Central Mall in Lawton. His idea was to get sponsors to pledge money for each hour that a participant could rock in a rocking chair. He and Dr. Dzialo recruited the rockers and he generated publicity by giving interviews with the local newspaper and radio stations, including live remotes on the day of the event. He asked the manager of Central Mall to provide the venue; partnered with food vendors and Coca-Cola to provide food and drinks to participants; recruited and organized the dozens of volunteers needed to help with the event; spoke with local merchants and asked them to donate door prizes and goodie bags for the Rockers; and secured a pizza party for the group that raised the most money. When the event was over, Jonathan and his army of more than 100 volunteers raised $15,000! Finally, he personally wrote thank you notes to all the vendors, volunteers, Rockers, and donors that helped make the Rock-A-Thon a success. The best part for Jonathan was having the pizza party at one of the schools receiving backpacks. The principle, Dr. Polk, introduced him to some of the students he had helped and allowed him to hand the backpacks to them.
Two years have passed since Jonathan first heard that PSA, and he is now 13. In that time, he has rallied the community of Lawton to raise over $20,000 for Food 4 Kids, feeding more than 100 children in Lawton Public Schools for an entire school year and changing their lives. Their grades and behavior have improved and their self-esteem has grown. There is no limit to what Jonathan can and will do for the children of Lawton. He is passionate about giving them a future and letting them know they are important. His peers have seen that you don’t have to be an adult to make the world a better place. Jonathan plans to continue the Rock-A-Thon in Lawton. He wants to start a leadership club in his school so that his peers can find out how to become more involved in their community. He plans to produce a video highlighting Food 4 Kids to be shown at City Council meetings, Chamber meetings, and other civic organizations. His influence has already resulted in thousands more dollars being raised to provide food to chronically hungry children.
At 13 years of age, Jonathan has done more to improve the lives of children and families than many adults several years his senior. His parents, friends and all who have come in contact with him, are extremely proud of him and envision even greater things from him in the future. Everyone is looking for and needs a hero in their life. The children of Lawton, OK have found theirs. Jonathan Crider is, indeed, an amazing young man, an exemplary leader and a Tyson Hunger All-Star.