Sicklerville resident awarded the National “Youth Hero-Good Deed Award” by American Legion Auxiliary 281 in Gloucester Township
11-year-old Ethan Palermo uses money from his change jar, “Change the World,” to purchase and donate items for the less fortunate.
Ethan Palermo has always been smart with saving money. The 11-year-old from Sicklerville has put loose change in his change jar since he was little, but that money didn’t have significant meaning until last year.
His mother, Nicole, told him about a less fortunate family in their community. The parents of a young boy had separated and the mother didn’t have money to buy her son a Christmas gift. Palermo decided to buy the boy a gift with his change so he could open something on Christmas morning.
“I decided that I should do something for him because I felt bad for him,” Palermo said.
“He wanted to give it to the mom so she could give it to her son for Christmas,” Nicole explained. “He was really excited because she started crying and was extremely grateful. From that point on, it made him feel so good about what he was doing; it just keeps him moving on.”
Palermo was encouraged to help others in the community shortly after. He called his change jar “Change the World.”
“I usually gather change I find and put it in the jar and I put that in my bank account,” he explained. “Then once I know what I want to do with it, I buy some stuff and give it to the homeless people.”
Besides collecting loose change, he sold his toys and also used that money toward purchasing items for the less fortunate. With all the money, he has donated food to a local food pantry, purchased socks for the homeless and created snack packs for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Because of all these good deeds, Palermo was award the National “Youth Hero-Good Deed Award.” According to the American Legion Auxiliary website, it’s an award that “recognizes young girls and boys who are demonstrating a kind of international selflessness.” Susan Griffiths, American Legion president of Auxiliary Unit 281 in Gloucester Township, nominated Palermo for the award.
“He’s such a selfless child and has such a kind heart,” Griffiths said. “Most kids say this is what I want, and he just gives.”
Palermo was surprised with the award at his school, Ann A. Mullen Middle School, on Oct. 20. The Auxiliary wanted to help him continue to help others, so they gave him $100 to go toward his next project.
Gloucester Township Mayor Dave Mayer also recognized Palermo at his office in early November by giving him a plaque honoring all the work he has done thus far.
“He’s certainly a great example of a young person who has the right motivation and right concern about giving back to his community,” Mayer said. “He’s a role model for other young people. It’s very impressive that he is still engaged in these different causes, where a lot of times, young people are consumed with other things and not necessarily paying attention to what’s going on around them and in need in the community. He is definitely a role model and someone that people should be looking up to.”
Palermo has worked with The Unforgotton Haven in Blackwood, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help the less fortunate, when collecting and donating items. The organization feeds the homeless, assists victims of house fires and collects supplies for veterans.
“For him (Palermo), it has really escalated because (The) Unforgotten Haven is involved with so many different outlets, you’re able to find different organizations they are affiliated with,” Nicole explained. “He will go online and find out where there is the most need.”
Nicole said when Palermo first got involved with Unforgotten Haven, the item it needed the most at the time was socks for homeless men. As soon as Palermo found out, he bought 10 bags of socks to donate.
“I think it’s amazing that he would go out, save his own money and purchase things in need rather than the latest game system, phone or latest fad,” said Michelle Gambone, founder of The Unforgotten Haven. “He’s really an amazing kid. I really wish more kids were doing what he’s doing in this world.”
“It’s made my husband and I so proud of him,” Nicole said. “He’s always been someone to care about other people before himself, and it’s really nice to see him at this age be this way. He’s always been the young kid that always wanted to share whatever he had. I don’t see him slowing anytime soon. Every project he does gets a little bigger.”