Keely Schuck

Keely Schuck, a third-grader at Bridges Elementary in Mankato, decided she would do something meaningful for her ninth birthday. In lieu of gifts, Keely asked for donations to Heifer International, a nonprofit dedicated to alleviating world hunger. She is pictured with her pup, Fletcher.

John Cross
The Free Press, Mankato, MN

With eyes closed, Keely Schuck’s words could be those of a humanitarian, a sage, a saint.

But open, they are simply the words of a blushing third-grader with a single birthday wish:

“I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful in the world.”

Today, Keely turns 9 years old — and her wish is coming true..

To celebrate her big day, Keely decided to forgo gifts, presents and packages. And instead, she asked friends and family to help her purchase dairy cows for starving villages worldwide.

As she explains her birthday request from a sitting chair in her family’s living room, her voice hardly carries beyond the coffee table. But even in tones faint and plain, her message will be heard across oceans.

“I’ll remember this birthday as the year I helped change some people’s lives.”

Just a few weeks ago, Keely began telling friends and family about her idea of raising $500 for Heifer International, a hunger-relief organization where donors actually purchase food-producing plants and farm animals (trees, cows, chickens, goats, to name a few) to be delivered to poverty-stricken villages around the world.

The organization’s goal is to provide sustainable solutions to world hunger. A single cow produces many calves, in addition to manure for fertilizer and several gallons a milk each day for sustenance.

To help meet her original goal, Keely wrote and produced a short movie about her birthday wish (featuring her two younger sisters in supporting roles) and posted it on YouTube. Within days, the video had garnered nearly 600 views, and she quickly met her $500 goal.

Now, she’s hoping to raise $1,500 — enough for three cows.

“I didn’t know what I wanted for my birthday,” she said. “I don’t need anything. I don’t want anything. ... I liked the idea of helping someone who needs help.”

Kristi Schuck, Keely’s mom, said she wasn’t surprised by her daughter’s decision.

When she was only 3 years old, Kristi said she remembers Keely asking Santa Claus to bring her “love” for Christmas. And another time, following a school field trip, Kristi remembers Keely remarking that she “wanted a purpose in life.”

She said friends, family and even strangers have responded to Keely’s decision to make a difference.

“It’s been really heartwarming to see,” Kristi said. “She’s always had a tendency to think larger.”

View Keely Schuck’s home movie about her birthday wish

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