There's a certain feeling you get while talking to someone like Katherine Cartwright.
The energy changes. The air crackles as though a storm's on the horizon. Her enthusiasm rubs off and you suddenly feel inspired, like you might try organizing the garage or finishing the first draft of your novel.
It doesn't seem to matter that she's only 8 years old.
Katherine's always had big ideas and the drive to follow through on them. So her mom wasn't the least bit surprised when Katherine — a dog-lover who once saved up her Christmas money to adopt her three-legged rescue dog named Duke — wanted to do something more for her furry friends.
For her 8th birthday, Katherine decided to give up her gifts and do something special for the local shelter instead.
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The Cartwrights are regular volunteers at their local humane shelter, and that's how Katherine got the idea to do something special to improve the lives of the animals who lived there.
"I saw lots of dogs and cats without toys and stuff," she says. She felt that the animals needed new things more than she did, and she just happened to have a birthday coming up.
Katherine's mom, Rachel, created a hashtag, #Donate4Katherine, and with the help of State Farm, got friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers involved. They collected far more blankets, beds, and toys than Katherine had ever anticipated. When Katherine's day finally came, she was totally surprised by all the support and donations.
"I'm shaking!" Katherine said, as she was greeted by a truckload of pet supplies.
According to the Cartwrights, this was far from a one-time deal. They're regular volunteers at the Humane Society and Katherine does lots of community work with her Girl Scout troop. She's also always thinking up new ideas for the future. "I want to be a vet," she says. "For my whole life, I want to help animals."
Katherine's a pretty amazing kid. But what's even more amazing is that her story isn't all that unusual.
Just this year alone, 8-year-old Falyn Svalstad collected more than her weight in nonperishable food, twins Jemima and Helen Snyder donated all their gifts to Philadelphia charities, and Gess Gallien's family sent his birthday funds to a Virginia organization that helps families pay emergency bills.
Those are just three examples — and it doesn't take much searching to find dozens more. There's even an online platform that helps parents and children plan their own charitable birthday party. It seems that charitable efforts can be contagious — after the success of Katherine's donation celebration, a few kids in her class announced similar parties, with plans to give their presents away to children in need.
But you don't need to have a birthday party in order to do good. State Farm is making it really easy to find giving opportunities, so that we can all live in one big Neighborhood of Good ™.
Selfless kids like Katherine give us a lot to look forward to as younger generations grow.
These donation projects they're taking on prove something important: Kids are realizing early on that it can feel just as good to give to others as it does to receive, and there are a million different ways to help out a neighbor (whether people or puppies!). Their giving attitude and commitment to making a difference could be just what it takes to change the world for the better. Certainly, the more people in the world like Katherine, the better off we'll be.