Birthday wishlists for first graders often include toys or video games, which seem to be typical items for children that age.
But Madison Harris is no typical first grader.
On Friday, Dec. 1, Madison — along with the help of friends and family — donated 46 coats using her birthday money. The coats went to children in need at Live Oak Elementary School.
Sanjane Harris, the first grader’s mom, discovered her daughter’s giving spirit when Madison asked her a question one day while heading to school.
“I remember one morning she asked me, ‘Mommy, if God provides for me, why doesn’t he provide for the other kids who don’t have [anything]?’” Sanjane said.
At the time Madison asked this question, she was just 4 years old, which stunned Sanjane even more of her daughter’s selflessness.
“I didn’t think she’d have the intellect to ask me such questions, but ever since then she’s had the passion [of giving],” Sanjane said. “She doesn’t understand why other kids don’t have the things that she has.”
That passion for giving would later turn into the project known as “Warm Embrace.”
Mommy, if God provides for me, why doesn’t he provide for the other kids who don’t have [anything]?Madison to her mother, Sanjane
A Warm Embrace from Madison
The project “Warm Embrace” started when Madison – a first grade student at the Newton County STEAM Academy – approached her parents about what she wanted to do with the birthday money she had just received.
Madison’s first wish was to host a medicine drive at her family’s home. When that did not pan out, Madison then pivoted to donating coats for her peers in need. Speculating about this, Madison’s mother asked her how she was going to accomplish this.
“I asked her [Madison], ‘Where are you going to get the money?’ and she said she was going to use her birthday money and the gift cards she got for her birthday to do this,” Sanjane said. “It just really warmed my heart that she can, at such an early age, acknowledge that amongst her peers there is a need.”
Touched by the selflessness of Madison, Sanjane reached out to Madison’s godmother, Fay Salmon – the owner of EJB Senior Daycare – for extra guidance on how to accomplish this.
Salmon then referred the family to Newton County District 3 commissioner Alana Sanders, who has a background in community welfare.
Together, along with administration from the Newton County STEAM Academy and Live Oak Elementary, the team formed the project “Warm Embrace,” which would provide children in need at Live Oak with coats for the winter season.
Everything culminated in a presentation of the coats last Friday to Live Oak Elementary principal Dr. Tiffany Richardson.
“We have several students here that need coats,” Richardson said. “They come in and have on shorts, they have not had coats and they need them, so we thank you.”
Sanders spoke highly of Madison during the presentation, giving the young leader some advice to take with her throughout her life.
“At your age I wasn’t thinking about giving [away] my birthday money. I was thinking about going to Toys R Us,” Sanders said. “I appreciate all that you are doing. Don’t stop, be giving and I’m very thankful to your parents for producing you because you are an amazing young lady.”
Also showing support to Madison was Xeron Pledger, the director of external affairs for Congressman Hank Johnson. Pledger delivered a message to Madison on behalf of Georgia’s 4th Congressional District representative.
“He feels as though you are an extension of him serving people at a very young age,” Pledger said. “He’s grateful to have someone like you in the district. He says hello from Washington D.C. and thank you very much.”
Madison was a bit shy during the proceedings, but offered some insight as to the reasoning behind the donation. The answer was quite simple.
“Because nobody has jackets,” Madison said.
And now that kids have those jackets that they need, Madison had only one word to describe how she was feeling — “Good.”
With someone this young of an age doing this, it sets an example for us adults for what we’re not doing.Newton County District 3 Commissioner, Alana Sanders
A Lasting Impact
The generosity of Madison has the potential to leave a lasting impact for years to come.
Sanders said that the generosity of Madison will show a large scale impact on the community as a whole.
“It impacts the community because it shows that somebody has a kind heart and [is] a giver,” Sanders said. “With someone this young of an age doing this, it sets an example for us adults for what we’re not doing.”
The commissioner also hopes that this is just the start of what is to come.
“What she’s doing is going to affect other kids and other people to be able to give, especially during this holiday season,” Sanders said. “There’s kids living in their cars that don’t have [things they need]. This starts the giving process and it tells me as a public servant and elected official that we need to be doing more and figure out how we get these kids out of their cars.”
As the fight to change at a larger scale continues, Madison and her family take comfort in their belief that Madison is making an impact.
It started on Friday when 46 children were granted access to coats that were not available to them before.
Sanjane, in particular, takes pride in the work that Madison has done early in her life.
“I am beyond proud of her,” Sanjane said. “Not only does she have a big heart of giving, she is excelling beyond standards in school, she is a part of girl scouts and she is also in karate. She has a really packed schedule, and to do this I am just… at a loss for words.”