Spreading Kindness to Kids in Need – One Cereal Box at a Time!

For the last eight years, the Wilcox family home has been overrun by cereal boxes every May. Their daughter Harper, turning nine at the end of the month, explains, “Every year for my birthday, instead of asking for presents, I ask people to donate to our cereal drive.”

Brooke Wilcox, Harper’s mom, worked as a nurse at Children’s Hospital before Harper was born. “As nurses, we were seeing kids come in hungry. We wanted to do something about it, so we came up with the idea of collecting cereal. Cereal is easy – it doesn’t take a parent to help prepare. It can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It has some good nutrition. The Cereal Drive started at Children’s as a competition between floors, then it expanded to all of the DMC hospitals. From there, it expanded to other children’s hospitals like Mott and Beaumont.”

 Gleaners has been involved since the beginning, tasked with getting those thousands of cereal boxes into the hands of local families in need.

“By the time I had Harper, I was no longer working at Children’s, but I always had that cereal drive in the back of my mind,” says Brooke. Looking back now, it seems Harper was destined to be born in May, right in the middle of the annual Cereal Drive season. “There has always been something synergistic about our involvement with the cereal drive,” Brooke says. For Harper’s first birthday, Brooke asked partygoers to bring cereal to donate instead of a present.

Harper doesn’t remember that first year, but she has seen pictures, and she’s proud of the tradition her parents started for her. “I saw a picture of me when I was really little, and I had a superhero mask and cape on, and I was sitting on a stack of cereal that we were donating at Children’s Hospital. I was only one year old!”

The Wilcox family continued asking for cereal for Harper’s birthday for her second and third birthdays. But as her fourth birthday rolled around, Brooke realized Harper was old enough to weigh in on whether to continue the tradition. “The decision about what to do for her birthday started to be hers from that year on,” says Brooke. Harper decided that she wanted to keep asking for cereal for her 4th birthday. Every year since, the Wilcox parents have given Harper a choice – and she’s always chosen to collect cereal to help other kids. “I don’t think I’ll stop doing a cereal drive for my birthday,” says Harper. “I want to keep doing it.”

Plans for this year’s 9th annual Harper’s Hunger Heroes Cereal Drive to support the Children’s Hospital Cereal Drive and Gleaners are already underway.  “I always start by making a video every year that helps people learn about why we do this,” she says. “I tell people why I am asking for cereal for my birthday – and it’s because a lot of kids go to school and have breakfast and lunch there. But when they go home, or in the summer, they might not have enough food So, if we can give them cereal, that is helping them – and it feels good to help other kids.”

Harper’s Hunger Heroes has grown and expanded far beyond her family birthday parties. She now has collection boxes “everywhere she’s ever been”, like her former day care, her old school, her new school and her tae kwon do studio. Her soccer team and Girl Scout troop pitch in to collect cereal. Her social media video every year helps amplify her cause, and you can find her on Facebook and Instagram as Harpers Hunger Heroes. She even has an Amazon link where people can send cereal right to her door with just a few clicks.

Last year, the Wilcox family shared almost 20,000 servings of cereal with the Children’s Hospital Cereal Drive. This year, they’re hoping to collect even more. “We usually fill A LOT of Gleaners boxes with cereal!” says Harper.

They collect all month long before delivering their full Gleaners totes to the Cereal Drive collection celebration, which will be held once again this year at the Royal Oak Kroger on June 6, 2024. 

“My favorite part of the cereal drive is unloading it,” says Harper.  Her two younger brothers, ages 7 and 4, are now part of her Harper’s Hunger Hero crew. “They help carry the cereal,” she says.

“This is a way for our family to help hungry kids and do something positive,” says Brooke.  It’s really important to us to raise kids that are aware that everyone’s situation is not like theirs, and that even at a young age, they can do something to help. That Harper still wants to do this cereal drive, year after year, is something we’re really proud of.”  

Harper and her parents recently visited Gleaners on Double Your Donation Day to share their story and encourage others to get involved. Fox 2’s Erica Francis asked Harper why she does this – and why she’s choosing to do it again for her upcoming 9th birthday. She smiled and said without hesitation: “I want to spread kindness around the world.”  

To learn more about the Children’s Hospital Cereal Drive, visit https://www.gcfb.org/event/2024-childrens-hospital-cereal-drive/.