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Little girl's wish shows true holiday spirit

A young local donor hands off about $100 in cash she helped collect for the local food shelf, giving it to RFCFP board member Rick Pechacek. <i>Submitted photos</i>1 / 2
Franki Larson stands by the Christmas tree at River Falls High School where food donations given in her name accumulated. <i>Submitted photos</i>2 / 2

Six-year-old Franki Larson got the age-old question posed to most children during December: "What do you want for Christmas?"

The big-eyed little girl, daughter of Nichole and Charles Larson of River Falls, answered more than once: "I've got lots of toys and don't really need anything, but maybe Santa could bring me food for the food shelf."

Nichole said her daughter did name three or four things 'typical' for a six-year-old's wish list but relayed her food-shelf request to several relatives.

Nichole said, "I had sent out a text to family members saying 'hey, this is what she wants to do...'"

Franki's grandmother, Nancy Gunderson, works in the River Falls High School's activities office and sent an e-mail to her colleagues about donating food. She sits near a Christmas tree, which made a perfect drop-off point and visual prompt for other donations.

Nichole said Franki received several cans and bags of food as Christmas gifts but knew nothing of her grandmother's effort. It was a surprise when she walked into the school Dec. 27 to see the 400 pounds of donated food and about $100 cash under the tree -- all given in the name of her request.

Nichole said she went into the room first to prepare the camera, while Franki's granddad waited with her. When the little girl walked in the room, her mother said she looked a bit overwhelmed and became shy.

She asked, "What's all that for, Mom?"

The young donor became very excited when she realized all that food would go to the River Falls Community Food Pantry. She helped load and transport it, surmising that "they will be very happy."

Asked how her little girl became aware of the food shelf, she said Franki attends St. Bridget School, which does a "great job" teaching kids about charity and compassion. Franki visited the RFCPF two times during school field trips and is apparently learning a lot from her life experiences.

As they helped provide for families on a 'giving tree' at church, Nichole said she and her daughter talked about people who don't have what they need. They've talked about how hunger feels and collected food as a family during the November 'month of compassion' in River Falls.

Mother and daughter also read the "RFCFP need" sign as they drive by it, "We've taken a couple trips to the grocery store to get things they had on the sign," said Nichole.

As they delivered the cash and food they talked about how much the pantry benefits from cash donations. For example with any given amount, RFCFP can buy exponentially more food from its wholesale supplier than an individual can from a grocery store.

Her mom says the little girl has already talked to brother Oliver about how the siblings can work together next year and collect even more food.

Franki was excited to deliver the gifts to the food shelf, and Nichole said the staff there seemed impressed not only with the big delivery but also with the 6-year-old's display of real holiday spirit.