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Pulling Teeth for Good

East Memphis boy raises tooth-fairy money to help the homeless.

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Tying a knot around a loose tooth can now help feed the homeless.

When 7-year-old Henning Washington saw the same homeless man begging for food every day on the way to school in East Memphis, he asked his mom Carina if they could start bringing him breakfast.

But while Carina and Henning had the best intentions in mind, the morning rush often led to them forgetting the food. After passing by the man without food one too many times, they devised a plan.

"Henning decided he wanted to raise $20,000 to help feed the homeless," Carina said. "I asked him how he planned to get that kind of money, and he said he would start donating the money the tooth fairy gave him."

The Tooth Fairy Project was born. Henning's peers at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church and the Campus Elementary School donated their tooth-fairy money.

Eventually, the project was incorporated into one of the many charities championed by the Hospitality Hub.

Kelcey Johnson, associate director of the Hospitality Hub, said this is the first time the Hub has worked with a charity started by someone so young.

"Of course, this is the first time we've worked with a charity sponsored by a child, but Henning isn't your average 7-year-old," Johnson said. "His dad is a professor at the University of Memphis, so Henning is exposed to a lot of different things most 7-year-olds aren't."

Still, Carina said she is amazed at her son's willingness to donate his money.

"This is the first money Henning has ever earned. He doesn't get an allowance or money for his birthday or Christmas. I think we can learn a lot from his sacrifice," Carina said.

While linking the Tooth Fairy Project with the Hospitality Hub will gain attention from the greater community, it won't immediately get food to the homeless. The Hospitality Hub does not provide food directly but rather works on helping their clients out of homelessness for good.

"When someone calls and asks if they can donate food to us, I say, 'No, but I've got a group of guys who need a job unloading your food truck,'" Johnson said. "On Thanksgiving, there are 10 different places where you can go and get turkey and dressing, but after that, you still have no place to sleep. Our goal is to wrap people up in resources so they can be off the street and on their feet."

When asked if he thought the tooth fairy minds that he's giving her money away, Henning quickly replied with a smile: "I don't think the tooth fairy minds. Maybe she can tell the tooth fairy that visits the homeless people about it too."

Those interested in donating to the Tooth Fairy Project don't have to wait for their teeth to fall out. To participate, visit thetoothfairyproject.org for more information.

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