By Dave Ongie, Editor
It was near the end of the school day on Jan. 22 when Cooper Weems quietly approached his teacher’s desk.
Without a word, he handed her a green envelope and returned to his seat. When Anna Smitley, a sixth-grade teacher at Indian Trail Intermediate School, opened the envelope, she was surprised to find it filled with money and a note.
“Inside was this note saying, ‘I gathered this money from my birthday instead of gifts, and I want it to go to Teddy’s Fund,’ ” Smitley recalled. “I called Cooper back over and said, ‘Cooper, that’s amazing!’ and he just kind of smiled like he does.”
Teddy’s Fund was recently established in honor of Christopher Columbus “Teddy” Hartsaw Jr., a beloved custodian and a friend to every student who ever crossed paths with him inside the cafeteria at Indian Trail. Hartsaw worked at the school for over a decade, and during that time, he manned his usual post in the cafeteria every day keeping an eye on the students.
In addition to bringing smiles to the students’ faces, he also kept a keen watch out for any student who looked like he or she might be in need of something to eat. If a student didn’t have money for lunch, Hartsaw was there to see nobody went hungry.
After Hartsaw’s untimely death in 2015, Teddy’s Fund was started to provide money to students who don’t have the funds to eat. The school also accepts donations of non-refrigerated food items for those in need.
As his birthday approached last month, Weems began to think about everything he had, which made him think about his classmates who may not be so fortunate. So instead of gifts, Weems asked those who were planning to attend his birthday party to bring money, which he would in turn donate to Teddy’s Fund.
“We have a lot of toys at my house, so we didn’t need any more,” Weems explained. “I’ve heard about lots of people that haven’t had enough food to eat, and I heard that it was going to be cold and they were going to need food, so I thought I could donate the money to that.
“There are lots of kids my age that don’t have a lot of food, and I would hate to be one of those kids.”
Weems said his friends were a bit surprised at first when they found out he didn’t want any gifts for his birthday. But when the night of the sleepover party rolled around, they arrived with money, which was put into a green envelope along with the note that made Smitley’s day when she received it.
“Seeing that in one of our students, the heart for others, the compassion and the caring is always a goal,” Smitley said. “He’s just a great kid. It gives you hope for the future and knowing that the generations to come already have this amazing sense of community and helping others.”
With Cooper’s permission, Smitley spread the story of his generosity around the school. Other teachers passed along the message to their students that small acts of kindness and selflessness can make a big difference.
‘We used it as a way to show other students you can do something like this, and it doesn’t have to be something outside of your normal routine,” Smitley said. “In your daily life, you can impact others in small ways.”
Smitley said she wasn’t at all surprised Weems made the donation. As a student ambassador at Indian Trail, Weems is committed to being a leader and doing various service projects throughout the school year.
But the low-key manner in which he made the donation stood out to Smitley.
“We see these actions from him daily,” she said. “I think what struck me the most was the humbleness of it. The thing about Cooper is he doesn’t care if he got the recognition or not.”
According to Weems, the feeling he got from knowing where the money was going was reward enough.
“That made me feel good inside,” he said.