Jacob Cytron, Congregation Shaare Emeth

When Jacob Cytron was in third grade, his mother purchased a cake that was more than her family could eat. So she donated the remaining half to the Ronald McDonald House. That was a lesson Jacob would hold on to—understanding the importance of giving—and it made a perfect choice for Jacob’s mitzvah project. He collected and donated items on the Ronald McDonald House Charities wish list.

For Jacob, son of Betsy and Ron Cytron of Ladue, this was no ordinary collection. With the help of his parents, he organized an efficient, foolproof system of accumulating a specific set of goods. But before he stationed himself outside of the Schnucks at Ladue Crossing, Jacob did his research. He knew that planning was key.

Jacob and his father emailed the organization to ask for a wish list and a logo, so they could create signage that was legitimate and eye-catching. “We went into Schnucks and looked in the aisles to see where these items were,” said Jacob. “We put a map of Schnucks on the back of the wish lists we handed out. It had a picture of all the aisles and a picture of where all of the items were located, such as single-serving portions of non-refrigerated food, cleaning supplies and snacks. We tried to make it easy.”

Shoppers liked this because no matter what aisle they were visiting, there was something simple and inexpensive they could pick up and donate.  Schnucks liked it as well because shoppers spent extra money purchasing these goods for donation.

As it turned out, all the hard work paid off. “A lot of people were very generous. After a couple seconds of explaining, they were happy to help,” Jacob said. “I was really overwhelmed by how much we got.” To encourage and reward generosity, he offered incentives to shoppers who purchased at least three items.

“I bought an iTunes gift card and we had a raffle,” noted Jacob, a student at Ladue Middle School. “If they bought three items or more, they could fill out a entry form and put it in a basket. The more items they bought, the more chances they would have at winning. At the end of the day, we drew a name, and someone won. It was really fun.”

When the time came to deliver the items to the Ronald McDonald House in Creve Coeur, the Cytrons loaded everything into their minivan, which was packed to the brim with more than 30 large bags. Jacob said, “I thought I would collect a good amount of stuff in just four hours, but I didn’t think we would collect a whole van full. It was really cool to see the smiling faces and see how surprised they were.”

Jacob didn’t realize what an impact his project had made until he was nominated for the “Do the Right Thing” award. Thanks to his service to others and commitment to a charitable cause, many families with sick children benefited. Katie Underhill, Communications Coordinator of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Metro St. Louis, who nominated Jacob, said, “We as an organization are grateful for the donation which will help so many families, and we are extremely impressed by his out-of-the box approach. He has set an incredible example for his peers. We’re so proud of you Jacob—great job!”

Sponsored by KMOV Channel 4, the St. Louis Metropolitan and County Police Departments, Suburban Journals and Cooperating School Districts, Do the Right Thing of Greater St Louis, Inc. is a program that recognizes and encourages the positive behaviors of area children. The “Do The Right Thing” Award winners are selected from the hundreds of children who are nominated each month by area parents, teachers, neighbors and friends.