Age is just a number. And twelve-year-old Madeline Cumbey is proving that you can help improve your community no matter your age.
Cumbey moved to Oswego less than a year ago and has already started to make positive changes in the area.
Cumbey spearheaded the creation of a community garden at Montgomery’s Community Christian Church (CCC). All produce is donated to the Kendall County Food Pantry to help those in need have nutritious food options.
The garden was planted by community children as part of Oswegoland Park District’s Earth Day event in April 2012. Church members tend the garden and deliver the produce to the food pantry.
Cumbey earned a $1,000 grant from Youth Service America which was used to purchase materials to build a greenhouse alongside the garden.
The church garden has already produced more than 1,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables for the food pantry, Cumbey said.
This garden isn’t the first garden the young girl has inspired. She created two gardens in her prior hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind., and she has only begun in her quest to provide healthy foods to those in need.
“My goal is that everybody has access to fruits and vegetables. I hope to have many gardens in every city. Most of all, I really want to spread the word about community gardens and the problem of childhood obesity,” she said.
Her vision originated while volunteering with her family to feed the hungry. She realized most of the meals came from a box and she decided to do something about that, her mother Tina Cumbey said.
At age 8, Cumbey learned of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation while attending the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. She applied and became a board member for the Alliance, which works “to address one of the nation’s leading public health threats – childhood obesity.” This board was comprised of children aged 8 – 18 from across the country.
The Alliance encouraged Cumbey to take action in her community, which she did by starting two community gardens and YMCA clubs to inform kids about childhood obesity in her hometown of Fort Wayne.
Tina said her daughter was born to do this.
“It’s a God thing. This was meant to be. We happened to be at the museum and learn about the opportunity with the Alliance. She was one of 20 kids in the country to serve on the board and was the youngest member ever accepted. The Alliance helps the kids accomplish things they want to do and helps show the steps needed to accomplish the goal. It was Madeline doing this, not us,” Tina explained.
Cumbey's devotion to healthy eating habits is homegrown. At 2 ½ , a screening showed she had high cholesterol.
“We were pretty taken aback by that. It was like an alarm bell going off that we needed to make significant changes,” Tina said.
They traced their family history and found their daughter was a “poster child for bad health history,” Tina said.
“My kids know a lot about health because they need to,” Tina said.
On Sept. 17, the Cumbey family was included in a segment on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams about the abundance of salt in children’s diets. The Cumbey’s discussed healthy changes they’ve implemented as a family to ensure a healthier generation.
Madeline Cumbey was also featured on the Rachael Ray Show.
In July 2011, she was highlighted for making a difference in her community, Tina said. The Rachael Ray Show followed her for an entire day.
“She’s becoming a pro at being on TV,” Tina said. “But it’s not about being on TV. It’s about getting out the word.”