Maddie Cahoon knows that one person can make a difference.
Last year, her congregation, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Arlington, WA, raised awareness for the ELCA Malaria Campaign by using “Story People.” Paper dolls, dressed in African clothing, sat in the pews. The stories written on their backs were read aloud to the congregation.
Maddie is a compassionate girl, 8 years old at the time. She felt bad when she heard the stories and learned that kids were suffering from malaria in Africa. “Mom, somebody should do something about this!” she said to her mother Dawn. “Well,” said Dawn, “maybe the person who should do something about it is you.”
So Maddie went to see her pastor, who told her that at their church, new projects proposals needed to be approved by the church council. “I thought that would be the end of the project,” admits Dawn Cahoon. But Maddie was undaunted. She wrote up a proposal and delivered it to the pastor, and it was approved by the church council at their next meeting.
Maddie’s project is called “noisy can kids.” Every other week during worship, she and her Sunday school classmates stand up during the offering and shake cans—tin cans, coffee cans, whatever they can find—and take a noisy offering from members of the congregation. Volunteers collect the change and bring it to the bank. For every $50 that’s collected, a miniature “Story Person” is added to a wall mural depicting an African village. Every month, Maddie Cahoon writes a story for the church newsletter, keeping the congregation updated on their fundraising progress.
The African mural village is becoming well-populated. June 3 will mark the one-year anniversary of the “noisy can kids,” and in that year, Maddie and her friends have raised over $1000 for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. They’ll host coffee hour on June 3, featuring a large cake with a mosquito on it (and a big red slash through it, of course).
And their work won’t stop there. Maddie and her friends have invited other youth groups in their cluster to become “noisy can kids” in their congregations. They’ll get together quarterly to encourage one another and engage in some friendly competition.
“The attitude in our congregation has changed since the ‘noisy can kids’ began their work,” reports proud mom Dawn Cahoon. “We used to suffer from the attitude that since we’re small, and our Sunday school doesn’t have a lot of kids in it, we couldn’t make much of a difference in the world. Maddie showed us otherwise—even one person can make a big difference.”
This summer, Maddie and the other the “noisy can kids” will participate in their community fair in Arlington, WA. They’re making a video and a display board about their project. Will they shake their cans for the members of their community?
“Of course they will!” says Dawn.