Vista Girl, 5, Uses Hot Cocoa Stand Money to Pay Off Negative Lunch Balances for 123 Students

Katelynn Hardee, a 5-year-old kindergarten student at Breeze Hill Elementary School in San Diego’s North County, raised money by selling hot cocoa and cookies and used that money to pay it forward

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With cocoa, cookies, and compassion, a 5-year-old elementary school student in San Diego’s North County has found a way to pay off the negative lunch balances of 123 fellow students.

Katelynn Pardee is a kindergarten student at Breeze Hill Elementary School in Vista. Like any other child her age, she is curious.

She is also kind.

According to Katelynn’s parents, the girl recently overheard a difficult conversation at school: another student’s mother saying she was having a difficult time paying for an after-school program.

Katelynn’s mom, Karina Hardee, said the girl started asking questions, wondering why things like this happen.

“Trying not to put too much on a 5-year-old, I explained some aren't as fortunate as us and it is kind to give when we can," Karina Hardee said.

That struck a chord in the kindergartener’s heart. Katelynn wanted to help.

Vista kindergarten student Katelynn Hardee
Mark Leimbach
Katelynn Hardee, 5, is a kindergarten student in Vista, California, with a big heart.

She asked her mom if they could set up a stand to sell hot cocoa and cookies. She wanted to donate whatever money she made to charity.

Word on the child’s act of kindness picked up steam. Soon, business at Katelynn’s cocoa stand was booming.

The girl and her mom decided the money they raised would go toward something sweet: paying off the negative lunch balances of 123 students in the Vista Unified School District.

"I don't want people to be hungry,” Katelynn said.

"It is truly inspiring to see Katelynn's compassion and generous nature utilized to help those less fortunate,” said Jamie Phillips, Director of Child Nutrition Services for Vista Unified School District.

For her kindness and generosity, Katelynn was given an award by her school principal Lori Higley and the school’s cafeteria lead, Teresa Sharp.

The Vista Unified School District is made up of 29 schools that serve nearly 20,000 students.

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