KC region’s young philanthropist of the year helps sick children with pop tabs

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There was a big event Wednesday night at which the people in our region who raise money for all sorts of charities and not-for-profit organizations honored local champions in community service. And the Young Philanthropist of the Year of The Mid-America Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals is this week's Fox 4 Young Achiever -- a little boy with a big heart for helping.

It happens pretty much every day at Academie Lafayette charter elementary school in Kansas City. With second-grader Ryder Clay as their leader, kids bring in tabs from pop cans and old keys, sometimes just one or two at a time and sometimes bagfuls, and drop them into a large bin.

"They're just really excited about it," says Beth Walker, Acadamie Layfaette social worker. "And they know that one pop tab can make a difference. And if they all work together, that they can make a big difference."

Their little bits of metal pile up to be sold for recycling and the money goes to help very sick children and their families staying at Ronald McDonald Houses near Children's Mercy Hospital where the kids get care.

"I do it because I want to help other people, the sick kids," says Ryder.

This is the second year for the pop tops for Ronald McDonald House project at Acadamie Lafayette. Ryder did it on his own here at school last year over about five weeks and everybody was so happy with the success they decided to make it a school-wide project this year.

"It's incredibly exciting for him, to see everyone get involved," says Ryder, mom, LeAnne Clay.

Ryder started his pop tab project after he joined his mom dad volunteering regularly at Ronald McDonald House, serving meals to families and helping with fundraising events.

"And then Ryder kind of got to know some of the children," says Clay. "And I think he felt a bond with them and knew that they were sick. And he wanted to do anything else that he could do to help them."

Ryder's drive and success and his deep desire to help others got the attention of The Mid-America Chapter of The Association of Fundraising Professionals which has named him its Young Philanthropist of the Year. The volunteer manager of Kansas City's Ronald McDonald Houses says it's easy to see why Ryder impressed the organization.

"To have the initiative like that is just phenomenal," says Tara Adler. "And to go out into a school and to organize that, especially for such a young child. We have groups that will do those types of things but for just one kid to go out and do that for us is just fantastic."

And Ryder's biggest contributions just may be the example he's setting for other children and for his own future in charity work.

"I'm just so proud of him," says his mom. "And I hope he continues to grow with his philanthropy work. And I hope other kids his age will watch what he's doing and start doing their own projects." A little guy with an uncommon spirit of service to others.

It is pretty special," says Walker. "It's pretty extraordinary." And for Ryder, it comes down to one simple, profound objective.

"I want people to feel better."

Ryder and his schoolmates at Academie Lafayette are among students at more than 100 schools in Missouri and Kansas who collect pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House. And recycling their pop tabs raised more than $30,000 dollars to help the local local houses serve sick kids and their families last year. To join them in the efforts, go to this link for more information.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.