ST. CLAIR COUNTY — Ten-year-old Benny Barnes III was surprised Friday to find out his efforts to help the victims of the April 27 tornadoes will now go a little further.
Kool-Aid presented a $10,000 check to the Mid-Alabama Chapter of the American Red Cross to go with money Benny raised for the Shoal Creek community.
“I want to thank them for their donation,” Benny said.
Benny and his family evacuated to Alabama after Hurricane Rita devastated their hometown of Lake Charles, La., in 2005. They evacuated to Attalla to live with some friends of the family.
Six years later he saw the tornadoes destroy homes that were near Attalla and he wanted to help those who once helped him and his family.
He wanted to reach out to the people of Shoal Creek Valley, and did so by selling Kool-Aid for 10 days after school and on weekends. He raised $1,300 to donate to the relief fund and also brought more than $8,000 worth of clothing and other goods to help families.
Kool-Aid heard about his story and decided they wanted to add to his donation. They also flew in Benny, his dad and his dad’s girlfriend for the event.
“Benny is really an inspiration to us, and I just really felt like he showed a selflessness and kindness that you don’t often see in adults two or three times his age,” said Sivonne Davis, spokeswoman for Kool-Aid.
“A 10-year-old young man that is so passionate about the community that he used to be a part of really shows his passion,” she said.
This was all a surprise for Benny. His dad told him they were going to Shoal Creek for a different reason.
“He told me we were coming here for Father’s Day,” he said. “It was really surprising, and I’m thankful for them sponsoring.”
Benny lives with his mother in Atlanta during the summer, and this opportunity has allowed him to spend Father’s Day with his dad.
Benny Barnes Jr. said it was inspiring to see his son help the community.
“I was very pleased and almost shocked when he brought up the fact that he wanted to help the people up here,” Barnes said.
Benny and his dad thanked everyone at Kool-Aid for the donation.
“I was very pleased that Kool-Aid stepped up and brought this check out here,” Barnes said.
Peggy Mann, executive director for Talladega County and interim executive director for St. Clair County chapters of the American Red Cross, also thanked Kool-Aid for the donation.
“I want to thank Kool-Aid for being the example for the corporate world and stepping up and seeing what a young child can do,” Mann said. “I’m just overwhelmed.”
She was also impressed with Benny’s selflessness.
“It touches my heart what Benny has done, and what one person can do to just start to pay it forward and wanting to help neighbors,” she said.
“He worked in the evening, after school, and on the weekend, and most children wouldn’t do that,” Mann said. “But because he did that, things led to a $10,000 donation, and how could you beat that?”
Buford Sanders was also on hand for the check presentation. Sanders’ son and daughter-in-law died in the April 27 tornado.
As he hugged Benny, he choked up as he tried to speak.
“This means so much,” he said. “I know now what it means to be homeless. I borrowed clothes, shoes, vehicles, etc. I didn’t have nothing. It means so much to see people come together like this to help out their fellow man.”