Thirteen-year-olds caught doing random acts of kindness

Louise Oleson Journal Managing Editor
Front row, from left is Devyn Halvorson, Autumn Thompson and Olivia Elfman. Row two is Kali Bjornson, Madison Prince, Bethany Shipley, Hope Schumacker, Jessica Mertens, Grace Quam, Maya Barendt and Madisyn Kramer. Not pictured is Abby Johnson.

Autumn Thompson wanted something different instead of the run-of-the-mill “normal” birthday party for her 13th birthday, so she and her mom put their heads together and came up with a radical idea.

Instead of having a birthday party, getting lots of presents, staying up all night having a sleep-over and all that goes with that, they decided to have a “Pay it Forward” birthday party.

Like the movie of the same name where the hero is a young boy who inspires the world to do random acts of kindness and thus changes the world for the better.

Autumn made a list of 13 friends to invite for her 13th birthday party on Friday, Oct. 24 and, yes, they did have a sleep-over that involved precious little sleep, but instead of the “normal” things teenagers do at those kinds of parties, these teens baked cookies - oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip - and made up random notes and cards of encouragement for strangers.

The girls Autumn asked to come to the party were asked instead of bringing gifts for her, to bring items to give to the food pantry or items they could use in bagging up treats for the Devils Lake’s Police Department and Fire Department.

Imagine a house filled with giggling, high-energy 13-year olds working at projects like this until after 2:30 a.m. Then following a very short night with very little, if any, sleep, they got up in the morning and spent the day doing 13 acts of kindness from delivering their baked treats to the men and women of the city’s police force and fire department to placing “motivational notes” under windshield wipers of cars parked on the city’s streets, to bringing treats to those working at gas station and a huge gift basket to the TLC Animal Shelter that currently houses 52 animals waiting for their “furever” homes.

The Devils Lake Journal caught up with this roving gang of do-gooders at the Hope Center where they had brought a large basket of donated food for Director Amy Hoffmeyer to distribute to those in need in the community. It was 11 a.m. and they’d already been at it for a couple of hours.

“Yeah, we’ve been to Kneadful Things and Holiday Gas Station, we stopped at a church and at the Holiday Mall,” they said, a chorus of excitement.

They said they were planning to have lunch at the Pizza Ranch, then hit the laundramat and tape quarters to machines so people could use them for free. They were planning to do the same with some vending machines around town in other locations, and to leave popcorn at the Red Box at Walmart for those renting videos.

When the group was asked if this had inspired any of them to also have this kind of a birthday party, nearly all of them raised their hands. Each one was brimming over with enthusiasm for how much fun it was to help others. Three parents accompanied the girls, acting as chauffeurs and maybe shepherds, too. Then it was time to draw numbers to see who would be riding in whose vehicle and on to the next destination, and they were off.

The group included Devyn Halvorson, Madison Prince, Bethany Shipley, Hope Schumacker, Jessica Mertens, Grace Quam, Maya Barendt, Kali Bjornson, Olivia Elfman, Madisyn Kramer and Abby Johnson, who had to leave early, but helped with Friday’s preparations for Saturday’s fun. All are seventh graders at Central Middle School in Devils Lake.

The birthday girl, Autumn Thompson’s parents are Amber and Brett Nelson and Jason Thompson all of Devils Lake.