Wyatt Brown, a third-grader at Fairview Elementary School in Auburn, shows some of the items Tuesday that he has collected for people who are homeless. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Young children sometimes help ground parents, teachers and anyone who listens to their often simple and honest questions and perceptions. They wonder about things many adults shrug off or ignore.

But when confronted with the realities of what they are thinking and trying to figure out, it can often be the stimulus to take action. It was a lesson in humanity that was recently taught at Fairview Elementary School.

Wyatt Brown, a third-grader, gave his teachers and administrators a refresher course on how they all can make a difference when he raised questions about the local homeless population.

It all began when he was driving around town with his mother, noticing the growing number of panhandlers on the street corners around Lewiston and Auburn. Explaining that concept to a 9-year-old is difficult. She did the best she could.

But where most children his age might ponder it for a short while and move on, Wyatt said, “It sparked my brain” and he wanted to do something about it.

When he brought it up with his Special Education teacher, Lana Cassidy, she and Principal Celeste Beaudet worked with his mom on a plan they incorporated into his curriculum.

“Wyatt has an incredible imagination and loves to write and draw,” Cassidy said. “We make books, videos and other hands-on projects we tailor to his learning style within our self-contained Junior Achiever program.”

Using their contacts and personal connections, they each got the ball rolling on Wyatt’s Wish. They first consulted a friend who is on the board at Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston, which provides food, clothing and services for the homeless. They got a list of the items that are most needed.

“We began creating a unique learning situation for this special student and at the same time doing a good thing for our community,” Beaudet said.

At school, they made lists of what was needed and explained why. A script was prepared and props were made for a video posted on the school’s website where Wyatt solicited donations. When the socks, hand warmers, deodorant and most coveted gift cards started coming in, they made it part of his project to record who donated what and sent each person a thank-you note.

Wyatt loves horror stories and is a big fan of Stephen King, so someone in the group who knows someone who has a connection to the famous author reached out to him. Within a few days, Wyatt received a personally signed note from the author with a special gift.

Asked if he was OK with having his story in the newspaper, Wyatt paused and asked, “Can you write about that people can donate. They can write their names and drop it off at the newspaper.”

Beaudet chimed in, “Why don’t we put a box in the office and people can ring the bell at the front door and drop it off?”

Wyatt thought for a moment and decided that was a better idea.

So far, they have collected several boxes of items and dozens of gift cards they plan to donate to the Jubilee Center and other charitable organizations throughout the community.

The staff at Fairview is still doing its homework on how to work that part into Wyatt’s curriculum.

No doubt there have been lessons learned by parents, teachers and their special students.


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