Fort Worth 7-year-olds organize effort to feed the hungry

FORT WORTH -- Will Lourcey noticed the homeless man on West Berry Street every time he rode home from baseball practice.

The man held a sign that read, "Need a Meal."

And it made an impression on a resourceful 7-year-old who will soon begin second grade at Tanglewood Elementary School.

"It made me feel sad," Will said. "And I didn't want to sit around doing nothing all summer."

Then his mom, Julie Lourcey, asked what he wanted to do this summer.

"He said, 'I want to start a charity,'" she said.

With the help of his parents, Will recruited 10 friends and formed a group called FROGs. The name is a tribute to TCU and stands for Friends Reaching Our Goals.

"But they chose red as their color, not purple," said Julie Lourcey, who, like Will's father, Bill, attended Texas A&M.

The FROGs set up lemonade and Popsicle stands and held a yard sale and drive for canned goods with the intention of donating the proceeds to the Tarrant Area Food Bank.

On Thursday, with Mayor Mike Moncrief sitting front and center in the school auditorium, the FROGs presented the food bank with 1,300 cans of food and a $1,000 check.

Then Kelsey Patterson, wife of TCU's football coach, matched the $1,000 gift in the name of the Gary Patterson Foundation.

"Young people are the future, but they are also very much a part of the present," Moncrief told the audience of parents and their kids. "We need to listen to them. These kids put it all together themselves, and it is remarkable."

Moncrief posed with the FROGs, who also received autographs from two TCU baseball players and two cheerleaders.

But the FROGs are not done yet. Having closed the book on their summer project, they introduced their fall campaign as part of the North Texas Super Bowl host committee's SLANT 45 community outreach program.

The youngsters took turns describing their Hits for Hunger and Kicks for Hunger initiatives: They are inviting all elementary school students who play sports to help raise $1,000 more for the food bank.

Every time a player on a youth baseball or softball team gets a hit, they will have a sponsor donate $1. Every time a youth soccer team scores a goal, a sponsor will also donate $1. Fundraising will be in September.

Bo Soderbergh, executive director of the food bank, said that such projects that fight hunger couldn't come at a better time, as more families face hardship because of the economic downturn.

"And it was all orchestrated by them," he said, marveling at the 7-year-olds' ingenuity. "This puts a focus on the need and a solution."

And it shows that no one is too young to contribute. Even Will's 5-year-old brother has given back, though it wasn't entirely voluntarily.

"When he misbehaved," Julie Lourcey said, "we made him put a few of his toys in the yard sale."

Pete Alfano, 817-390-7985

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