By Katie Stagliano
There are people who cross our path of life and forever alter our course. I’ve been blessed to meet so many remarkable people who have touched my heart -- from world leaders to families struggling with hunger and homelessness. But there are three individuals who definitely changed my life.
In 2008, when I was only nine years old, my family and I drove down to the Tricounty Family Ministries soup kitchen to deliver a 40-pound cabbage that I had grown. Sue Hanshaw, the director and CEO, greeted us with open arms and a smile that could light up the darkest day. Here we are pictured with the cabbage.
I was excited and nervous. I had never been to a soup kitchen before. There were so many more guests than I ever imagined. The line seemed endless. After unloading the massive cabbage from the back of my dad's car, Mrs. Sue gave us an impromptu tour. She also introduced us to the entire kitchen staff. Everyone made such a fuss about the enormous cabbage that I felt like I was making a difference.
Mrs. Sue invited me back to help serve my cabbage -- she wanted me to see firsthand the people I was helping. It gave me the chance, at nine years old, to see the face of hunger. I would have had no idea the impact that I was having, or how rare it was for fresh produce to be donated to a soup kitchen. Mrs. Sue took the time to explain all of this to me. She made it fun, too, drawing a face on the cabbage before my brother and I posed with it.
After seeing that my cabbage helped feed that many people, I decided to see how many people an entire garden could feed. My first garden dedicated to feeding the hungry was in my backyard, but space was limited. Paper and pen in hand, I wrote a letter to Dr. Cowlishaw, the headmaster of my school, Pinewood Prep. I wanted to start a garden at Pinewood. I knew it was a lot to ask. But I also knew I needed to try.
Not long after, my parents and I were invited to tour the far side of campus where we saw a huge empty plot of land the size of a football field. Our guide that day turned to me and said, “Katie, welcome to your new garden.” Here’s the garden as it looks today.
From that day forward, the Pinewood Garden has been the largest Katie’s Krops Garden, our flagship. Last year alone the garden produced more than 3,000 pounds of fresh food for families in need. Dr. Cowlishaw believed in the dream of a little girl. And now that he has relocated to Providence Day School in North Carolina, there is another Katie’s Krops Garden raising food for those in need.
Last, but never least, is Don Goodwin. In March of 2011, I had the honor of being selected as a keynote speaker for Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living. I stood on the stage in Epcot in front of thousands of people sharing my story.
Listening in the audience that day was Don Goodwin, a man who would forever change the face of Katie’s Krops. Mr. Don was very moved by my goal to end hunger one kid-run garden at a time. He was inspired to take action when his daughter told him that she felt the same about my speech.
Mr. Don is the founder and president of Golden Sun Marketing. He immediately saw that there was an opportunity to help me with my dream using his connections in the fresh produce industry. Mr. Don caught a flight to South Carolina to meet with me and my parents. He took the time to listen to my goals. I was only 12 years old, but he believed in me. He wanted to help.
Mr. Don introduced me to amazing people who would become supporters of Katie’s Krops. To this day, Mr. Don is one of my biggest supporters. With his backing, Katie’s Krops has been able to award countless grants to kids across the country, to spread the word that there are kids who want to grow an end to hunger, and to make the dream of the Katie’s Krops Camp a reality.
As the quote goes, “Some people stay in our lives awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” I am honored to say that Ms. Sue, Dr. Cowlishaw, and Mr. Don have done more than leave footprints on my heart. They saw the possibilities, and they took action. Because of them, kids across the country are growing a healthy end to hunger.