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Diminutive 10-year-old girl inspires others to give and serve in a big way

West Point girl to receive Catholic Community Services of Utah's 'Unsung Hero' award

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 23 2013 6:10 p.m. MDT

Armani McFarland talks about why she performs service as she sorts stuffed animals with her mother Cassidy Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. Armani has collected more than 1,000 pounds of food for Catholic Community Services' Ogden food bank and has assembled more than 600 backpacks for needy school kids.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

HARRISVILLE, Weber County — Most Thursday afternoons, Armani McFarland volunteers at the thrift store at her church or reads to a younger child.

This Thursday, though, the 10-year-old will be in Salt Lake City to accept Catholic Community Services of Utah’s Unsung Hero Award — an honor that’s generally bestowed on adults who have served their communities for decades.

Even though she’s just in fifth grade, there’s nothing childish about the way she approaches the issues of hunger and need.

“She gets it. She gets that she can make a difference. One of the big ways she does that is to inspire others,” said Marcie Valdez, northern Utah director of Catholic Community Services.

When Armani’s third-grade teacher taught her that children go to bed hungry — even in affluent countries such as the United States — she told her mother that she had to do something to help.

She wasn’t satisfied with her mother’s suggestion that she collect some canned goods, even spend some of her “give” money to buy it, and then donate it to Catholic Community Services’ Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in Ogden.

“She said, ‘No. I want to do more. I want to host a food drive,’” recalled her mother, Cassidy McFarland.

The next thing she knew, then-8-year-old Armani was standing outside a grocery story handing out fliers to drum up support for her food drive. She also handed out fliers at her school, Majestic Elementary in Harrisville.

“By the end of her food drive, she ended up collecting 1,000 pounds of food all on her own,” McFarland said.

That success launched a series of other donation drives and fundraising efforts that have included running a lemonade stand and conducting bake sales that raised $1,200 to buy backpacks and school supplies for Catholic Community Services' annual giveaway.

She’s currently collecting toothbrushes to give to children at area shelters and assistance agencies.

Armani, who lives in West Point, has learned to leverage the help of the community. For instance, this is an excerpt of a letter she wrote to area dentists asking their help with her latest project:

“My name is Armani McFarland. I am 10 years old and am a fifth grader at Majestic Elementary. I’m conducting a toothbrush drive to help make sure kids in our community have what they need to keep their teeth clean and healthy. … Any donation at all would help me reach my goal.”

Armani is not beyond working her charm to get people to open up their pantries, pocketbooks and their hearts, Valdez said.

“With her sweet smile, it’s really hard to say no,” Valdez said.

"(It's more like) she doesn't take no for an answer," Cassidy McFarland said. “She doesn’t like being told no. She's just so pesty sometimes that they just give in to her.”

Like the time she wanted to advertise her lemonade stand on a local radio station.

“She just emailed them and then she called them and she emailed them,” her mother said. Finally, the hosts of KZHT's morning show relented and gave her some air time.

The radio hosts became part of growing network of people Armani contacts when she’s conducting a drive. That network includes her classmates, who collectively gave more than 1,000 stuffed animals to give to public safety and ambulance services so they can provide them to children.

She also has working relationships with business executives such as the CEOs of Mountain America Credit Union and American Nutrition, a pet food maker.

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