When it came time to pick an eighth-grade project, Canyon Creek Middle Schoolers Eli Crabtree and Tanner Howington wanted to do something to make a difference.“It seemed like most everyone was doing easy stuff, and we wanted to do something unique and help people who really needed it,” Howington said.
The two, who are now ninth-graders at Washougal High School, decided to raise money for the American Legion Cape Horn Post 122 holiday food basket program.
Crabtree’s dad, Vince, a Navy veteran, is the finance officer for Post 122.
“They really needed funds for the food basket program,” Crabtree said. “So we decided to ask businesses for donations and have a raffle.”
Before approaching the businesses, he spent 10 hours putting together a presentation on his tablet, which explained the project. From there, he and Howington pounded the pavement to secure donations.
“Most of the businesses were very generous,” Howington said.
The two-day raffle during Canyon Creek’s annual holiday concert last year netted $2,500 for the food basket program, nearly twice what the boys were hoping to raise with their project.
“That raffle was not easy to put together,” Howington said. “It required a lot of hours and work.”
But they didn’t stop there.
Inspired, Crabtree and Howington decided to sell flashlights, pepperoni sticks, water and candy bars. With this fundraiser, they earned another $1,705 for a total of $4,205.
“It just felt really good inside, the thought of being helpful for families in need,” Howington said.
Added Crabtree, “I am so happy that some families may not go hungry this winter. It feels amazing to know this.”
The two have spent approximately 200 hours on the project to date, and it is ongoing.
To thank the boys for their hard work, Post 122 members recently organized a recognition event with more than 60 people in attendance. The boys received accolades from David Hodgeboom, Legion Department of Washington Area 2 vice commander. They were also given certificates of Congressional recognition from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and membership in the Sons of the American Legion.
“I think the entire Post was extremely proud of their initiative, ingenuity, perseverance and hard work,” said Dave Stanton, post commander. “Their efforts greatly enhanced the Post’s ability to assist members of our community and significantly eased our concerns about not having sufficient funds available to meet the need.”
He added that the atmosphere at the ceremony was one of celebration and appreciation.
“It involved a mix of formality, gratitude and amazement at what they were able to accomplish, enjoyment of their youthful enthusiasm, and of their response to the recognition they received,” Stanton said. “Both were very modest and seemed to feel it was simply something that needed doing, sort of ‘No big deal.’
“I think what I liked most, was a combination of all these grizzled veterans coming out to thank these young men for their truly amazing efforts, and Eli and Tanner’s surprise and pleasure at the recognition they received.”
Crabtree and Howington were shocked that so many people attended the ceremony.
“There was even a banner recognizing us,” Howington said.
Added Crabtree, “It felt like we really accomplished something.”
One of the most important lessons the two have learned from this project is that everyone can make a difference, no matter what their age.
“You just need a goal and the work ethic to do it,” Crabtree said.
Added Howington, “It takes time and effort, but you can make a difference if you try. Don’t give up when it gets hard.”