A hunger to help

Inspired by a boy’s dying wish, a simple project helps to unite a community

Ashton Kennedy, 18
Central High School
Leader, CHS Trevor’s Wish fundraiser

When Central High School Student Council President Ashton Kennedy escorted Trevor Sims onto the court for an unforgettable pep rally last fall, the almost-11-year-old Trevor was all smiles. He shouted “Go Wildcats!” and waved to the students in the bleachers. No one would have suspected that just a few minutes earlier, during the drive to the school, the young boy had been crying in pain caused by his terminal cancer.

“He was a true fighter and a warrior,” says Ashton, who brought Trevor and his family to the school that day to announce that CHS had raised more than $16,000 to help make the sick boy’s wish of feeding the hungry come true. “I’ll always remember the courage he had.”

Ashton had played an important role in raising the funds, which eventually totaled $17,675.50. The push began earlier that fall, when he read a news article about Trevor’s dying wish. “Trevor lived in Central, and this is a community where people help each other,” Ashton says. “I knew we needed to do something to help.”

Working with his fellow student council members, Ashton launched an initiative to collect corporate sponsorships and sell special T-shirts at school. “I spoke to more than 80 business owners in person,” he says. “I didn’t know what to expect, but some of them wrote checks on the spot. Within a week, money started flooding in.”

About half of Central High’s 1,253 students purchased the shirts with the message “I helped make Trevor’s wish come true.” Ashton expanded his reach by approaching other local school principals, who all agreed to let the shirts be sold on their campuses. Members of the community at large also sent in orders, and “we ended up selling more than 1,100 shirts in Central,” Ashton says.

Meanwhile, Ashton was visiting Trevor, and the two became friends. “As soon as I met him, I knew there was something special about him,” Ashton says. “He was really mature for his age, and he had a sense of peace about him. He held on to every moment and made the most of it.”

The funds Ashton and his community raised have provided more than 88,000 meals for homeless and hungry people served by the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. But this isn’t the end of the effort for the teen, who plans to meet with Baton Rouge officials soon to discuss the possibility of a new fundraiser—this one to create a statue in Trevor’s likeness in front of the food bank facility. He will also host another school food drive before graduation.

“Trevor once said, You can make a difference every day,’ ” recalls Ashton. “That’s what he taught me—to never give up and that everything counts. That inspires me to try every day to make a difference.”

The thing that excites me most about my charitable work is seeing the smile on Trevor’s face.

My inspiration comes from my faith in Jesus Christ.

If I could wave a magic wand and change the world, I would create a world where everyone helps each other and loves each other.

I wish other kids realized that instead of complaining, they should use their energy to make a positive difference.

If someone tells me I’m too young to make a difference, I say it has to start somewhere, and age is just a number—look at Trevor.

If I could have any career, I would be a missionary.

My greatest strength is leadership.

I am happiest when I am helping others and spending time with my family.