A young girl with a big heart
Kennedy McLellan, a 7-year-old from Dupree, should have been putting together her Christmas wish list for Santa Claus. Instead, the pint-sized philanthropist was playing Santa herself, raising nearly a thousand dollars so she could give a Rapid City family their Christmas.
For this massive endeavor, Kennedy is our MyTown Hero. “Oh my gosh, that’s awesome,” Kennedy’s mother Mariah said. “That someone noticed what she did is really humbling.”
Kennedy is still a little overwhelmed, having a hard time explaining how she feels about being recognized for her charity. “I don’t know if Kennedy realizes what she did and the impact she’s had. I hope some day she realizes how many lives she’s touched,” Mariah explained. ” I think she’s touched a lot of people.”
What prompted Kennedy was, unfortunately, a family tragedy. Her uncle, 18-year-old Arleigh McLellan, was killed in a car crash in October. Kennedy’s mother, Mariah, says the entire family was struggling with Arleigh’s death. That’s when a school counselor suggested Kennedy do something to honor her uncle’s memory.
With the holidays coming, Kennedy decided it would be her mission to help the homeless or help needy children have a happy Christmas. Kennedy’s mother Mariah was surprised at what her daughter was going to attempt. Her mother was especially concerned about how much money Kennedy could raise in a small community in Zeibach, a relatively poor South Dakota county. “I hoped her dreams weren’t smashed,” her mother said.
Kennedy started small; an old box for people to plunk in change at a family gathering. This netted $76. Another $80 was raised at a small-town craft fair and soon, Kennedy was receiving hundred-dollar checks from churches. By the middle of December she had $945; enough to give a family a memorable Christmas.
Then Kennedy took it to another, more personal level. Instead of just giving the money to a charity to buy gifts and distribute them anonymously, Kennedy’s mother found a deserving family through Church Response — five children who live with their grandparents in a small apartment. “She did good. She picked out everything, she knew what kids that age would like,” Mariah said.
Edgar Bear Runner, the grandfather, said “She’s a little girl with a big heart.”
Because of her big heart, Kennedy receives a $500 check she can use to continue her holiday charity next Christmas. “This will be a good jump start for next year,” Kennedy’s mother said. “We want to stay in touch with the family, see how they are doing.”
Here is the original KOTA TV News story about Kennedy; reported by Chris Davis: