Willard teen raises money to pay overdrawn lunch balances at his school

WILLARD, Mo. – One student at Willard Middle School has been tied to many charities in recent years. Now the eighth-grader has made a large contribution to his school to help pay off overdrawn lunch balances.

Sawyer Crayton, 13, is a fifth-degree junior black belt at Dunham’s Martial Arts in Springfield and used his incredible stamina to complete 111 pushups in three minutes to raise nearly $900 for a Pledges for Pushups program at his dojo. The six-year martial arts student says Willard schools removed the free lunch program last year, and he realizes people are struggling in today’s economy.

“We originally had the idea of it going to St. Jude (Children’s Research Hospital), but then we realized it would probably be beneficial to a school,” Sawyer told The Heartlander. “Last year lunch payments were free. This year they brought back the payments for it and it’s like $2.50 now or something like that. Now people are having a harder time paying. 

“So, we thought we could pay off part of the students’ lunch accounts there. I was told the other day we helped about 50 kids at one school, and they are still going.”

Dunham’s Martial Arts students talk about giving back to their community every year. Although participating is never required, Sawyer’s mother Amanda Crayton says her son truly enjoys giving back to his community and the surrounding area – but not for recognition. The youngster loves to share the love of Jesus Christ with the world and hopes to inspire others to give back to their local community. 

Last year Sawyer visited area businesses himself to ask for donations in order to build a gift basket to donate to a local organization. The teen raised $430 worth of items and made his contribution to Harmony House in Springfield. Harmony House is a shelter, advocacy and education center for survivors of domestic violence.

Additionally, the martial arts student has given back to an Ozarks Food Harvest canned food drive to help the homeless and the Good-To-Go mobile food pantry. 

Sawyer says he put music on to help inspire himself to complete his 111 pushups for Pledges for Pushups. 

“Some people were amazed by how many push-ups I could do. They were excited that I was able to do that.”

The Willard Middle School student says he is not finished giving back to charity, and will choose a new mission every year with the hope of raising more money each time. Next year Sawyer would like to raise $1,000 to give to an organization.

The young philanthropist plays on Willard’s eighth-grade baseball team, and says his goal for the future is to become a Major League Baseball player one day. His favorite MLB team is none other than the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sawyer’s mother says there are no words to express her complete gratitude for what her teenage son is doing for others.

“He keeps trying until he can do it. He always amazes me with his perseverance and I’m very proud of him,” she said.

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