Kylie Kirkpatrick was getting ready for work when her 9-year-old son, Ryan Kyote, burst into her bedroom. The Napa, California-based third-grader had just watched a news story about a kindergarten student in Indiana who was forced to return her school lunch because her account balance couldn’t cover the meal.
“Ryan was outraged,” Kirkpatrick TODAY Parents. “He said, ‘Mom, how does something like this happen?’ Then he asked what he could do to help.”
After a bit of brainstorming, Kyote — pronounced "coyote" — decided he would use six months' worth of allowance he had saved up to pay off the lunch debt of his entire class at West Park Elementary School. The tab came up to $74.50.
Though Kyote had been eyeballing a new pair of basketball sneakers, this was far more important to him. So, on May 24, he happily donated his six months of savings to the Napa Valley Unified School District food services department.
“Ryan told them, ‘Please let my friends know that they no longer owe any money,’” Kirpatrick recalled. “Lunch is his favorite part of the day and it broke his heart to think that it’s a stressful time for some children.” (Kyote was not aware that a California law passed in 2017 ensures that kids are not denied a full lunch because of their parents’ debt.)
The fourth-grader-to-be wanted his act of kindness to be anonymous, but his proud mother couldn’t resist sharing a photo on Twitter, where it quickly went viral.
“Give this kid his money back. No child should be covering lunch debt for his class with his allowance,” wrote one person. Added another: “Love this story ... Special kid.”
Practicing good deeds is nothing new for Kyote. “I’ll go into the garage and Ryan’s bike is missing because he gave it to a friend in need,” Kirkpatrick, a sign-language interpreter, told TODAY Parents. “One time, a friend didn’t have shoes that didn’t fit, so Ryan gave him shoes.”
Recently, an investor got wind of what Kyote had done for his classmates and he contacted Kirkpatrick. “He wanted to give Ryan money to put in his savings account,” she said.
Kyote, who recently lost his father to ALS, had another idea.
“Ryan told the man to pay it forward,” Kirkpatrick said. “So he made a donation to the ALS Association. I can’t even begin to tell you what that meant to Ryan. All he wants is to make the world a better place.”