SEVENTH GRADERS 'SERVANT HEART' SHINES THROUGH
In a tight-knit community like Sherwood, when there’s a person in need, people come together to help them out.
That’s what Connor Carlson had in mind when he recruited three friends to help raise money for a 4-year-old with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Sherwood Middle School adopted 4-year-old Cooper as their “Sparrow” this school year, encouraging school families and boosters to step up and support the sick child and his family. Naturally, Carlson wanted to do his part — maybe more than his part.
“I heard about Cooper at school, and I heard about what he was dealing (with), and I felt like I needed to help him,” the seventh-grader said. Carlson is a small kid — at 13, he still has plenty of time for a growth spurt or two — with a shy smile and a big personality. He’s known to friends and teachers alike as “BEANZ.”
He claims he picked up the nickname after buying a can of beans during a food drive and carried it to his classes one day. Last year, Sherwood Middle raised money for Camp Attitude, a nonprofit providing a summer camp experience for people with disabilities.
In addition, Carlson built and sold birdhouses, making a couple of hundred dollars that he donated to the camp. For Cooper, Carlson wanted to do something bigger. Carlson recalled that an eighth-grader from school told him he raised $500 for Cooper by mowing lawns.
“He … got Connor’s wheels turning, I think,” said Nicole Carlson, Connor’s mom, and Connor agreed: He decided he wanted to raise $1,000, doubling the older student’s already-impressive total. Connor Carlson enlisted friends Max and Jack Bertrand and Grayson Peetoom to help raise money. It didn’t take long to convince them to help, he said.
“We just wanted to make a difference in this kid’s life since he’s going through a lot right now,” explained Max Bertrand, a fellow seventh-grader. “We just wanted to give him a boost of knowing that he has people who want to help him out.”
Using $30 his mom won from a scratch-off lottery ticket as seed money, they stockpiled an array of goods sourced from local stores — dog treats, bottled water, candy, snacks, sidewalk chalk and more — and set up a table at Woodhaven Park to sell them.
They put a poster in front of the table with a picture of Cooper, an explanation of their cause, a Venmo account number, and a donation jar. “I didn’t expect that many people to actually even pay attention to us,” Peetoom admitted. “We were just kids on the side of the street.”
But they did. The dog treats were a particularly big seller, the boys said. March had some wild weather in Sherwood. The first day the boys were in the park, temperatures were in the 70s.
The next, it was cold and rainy. They sold rain or shine, even going door-to-door to drum up additional sales and donations. When he and his friends spoke with Pamplin Media Group in April, “BEANZ” was sporting a fresh new haircut. He and his mom said one of their most significant contributors to Cooper was the owner of Larry’s Barbershop.
“I told him the story about Cooper, and he wanted to help out as well,” Carlson said. “I told him that I really wanted to get that $1,000, and I was, like, really close to it. And he wanted to help out.”
After cutting Carlson’s hair, the barber — who had lost a loved one to leukemia — donated $50 toward the campaign. All in all, Carlson and his friends raised more than $1,000 for Cooper, exceeding their original goal, in just a few days. “There’s a lot of generous people in Sherwood,” Nicole Carlson remarked.
Angi Scott, a learning specialist at Sherwood Middle, said Connor Carlson walked into class on March 23, took out an envelope full of cash, and handed it to her. “I was in complete shock that he had planned this and executed this without my knowledge,” Scott said.
“What a servant’s heart he has … I am incredibly proud of this student.” Nicole Carlson is proud, too, of her son — and his friends. “They could have been doing anything. They could’ve been running around town doing whatever,” she said. “Instead, they were helping Cooper, which is pretty amazing.”