Five-year-old Landon Connally has defined what it means to have a giving heart in his efforts to fill the back of his parents' van with canned goods for the hungry.
As part of the third annual War Against Hunger can food drive, four area Catholic schools — including St. Peter Interparish School where Connally attends — compete to collect non-perishable food items to donate to the Samaritan Center. Last year, St. Peter's alone collected 10,000 pounds of food.
In addition to St. Peter's, Immaculate Conception, St. Francis Xavier and St. Joseph's Cathedral are participating in the food drive.
Connally made it his mission to help feed as many people as possible after he found out his school was hosting the food drive last Monday through Friday.
His mom, Rhonda, said her son has always tried to use his allowance to buy food or give money to the homeless.
"He immediately got excited when he found out about the canned food drive and wanted to go door to door asking for donations," Rhonda Connally said.
During the first go-around in the community, she said, many people didn't answer their doors — but that didn't deter Connally. He wanted to take it a step further and go to Hy-Vee and other grocery stores to see if people would donate.
After posting publicly about their efforts on Facebook, Rhonda said more people contacted her to see how they could donate.
Once word got out, a local homeless man even donated two cans to Connally's cause.
As of Monday, the Connallys already have dropped off a load of canned goods that filled half of their van, and their goal is to fill the other half by Friday.
"It just makes us feel good that he's always happy to give," Rhonda said. "We just want others to know that no matter how small, any donation can make a big difference."
From 4:45-6:30 p.m. today, they will be back at Hyvee, 3721 W. Truman Blvd., collecting more cans in exchange for toys Connally no longer plays with.
St. Peter's Principal Gail Trachsel said she was excited to see Connally's parents bring in half a van's load of canned goods for the drive.
"Landon is a very sweet kindergartner who definitely has the hands of God," Trachsel said.
The school teaches students about the seven corporal works of mercy, and feeding the hungry and giving the drinks to the thirsty are two of them, she explained.
Each day, the school hosts a different challenge to keep the food drive interesting. On Monday, for example, students were tasked with creating canned food structures.
"All of our our students have taken this collection drive a step beyond," Trachsel said. "We are grateful to be able to help as many people as we can."