FORT SILL, Okla. (March 8, 2018) -- A Soldier who saw children going hungry at his son's school decided to do something about it.

When he was finished, Sgt. 1st Class Michael McGill Jr., his son Michael III, age 9, and the charity group the School of Athens, raised over $1,600 for Hugh Bish Elementary School's lunch program for low-income families.

McGill, a platoon sergeant, at 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery, was volunteering at the school's book fair in February. When he passed through the cafeteria he noticed some of the children were not eating. He learned that those children's individual lunch program accounts were in arrears, they could no longer be extended credit, so consequently weren't being served school lunches.

McGill contacted Bish elementary authorities about his intentions, and learned the meal debt involved 52 children (names not revealed to him) with some accounts overdrawn up to $74, he said. The total for all the students was $753.

"My son asked me if we could do a fundraiser, which was exactly what I was thinking," McGill said. "I said alright let's raise $700, and my son says, 'why don't we double that so the kids can eat for a while?'"

McGill is part of a small, local benevolence group, the School of Athens, that raises money for needy causes. It's made up of him and a few other Soldiers in the 75th Field Artillery Brigade; and a couple civilians.

McGill, and the others from the School of Athens, did a Facebook blitz with videos and money started coming in.

"A lot of the donations came from people, who said, 'I can relate, I know how it was to be hungry when I was a child,'" McGill said. "People were giving $150 at a time. People who realistically couldn't afford it, but knew how important it was."

One donor gave $250 and said it would make him late paying his rent, but that this was more important, he said.

Other people and charitable local organizations have benefited from the School of Athens' donations, McGill said. It provided funding for a family to stay one month at the Ronald McDonald House, so they could be near their gravely ill infant. The $2,300 raised was given to the local Ronald McDonald house.

Another family whose children were sleeping on the floor, were provided new bunkbeds.
McGill said sometimes the community is unaware of the difficulties facing Lawton Public Schools in these tough fiscal times.

"I know Lawton Public Schools is doing a wonderful job; and doing everything they can," McGill said. "But they can't do it own their own, it's going to take the community, it's going to take the state, it's going to take everybody getting together to knock this out."

Lynn Cordes, Lawton Public Schools' communication director, acknowledged the School of Athens for their generous donation to Bish elementary's meal debt.

"We are so appreciative that they chose our students as the recipients," she said.