As far as kids go, Connor Gilbertson quite simply rocks. A student at Warwick’s John R. Bonfield Elementary School in Lititz, the dapper sixth grader (who loves to sport his signature bow-tie) has done more to help others in his 11 years than many adults have done in their lifetimes.
From the time he was little, Connor remembers, he was always taught at home to care about others. “When I was younger—about two or three,” he says, “we had just moved here from New Jersey. We had made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We went out into the city and gave them to homeless people. My mom’s a big part of it—she has the biggest heart in the world.”
Connor’s contributions to his community started in the kitchen. At an early age, he decided he wanted to be a chef. He worked alongside his mom, learning recipes and techniques, until he reached the point that he was making meals for the family on his own. As his skills grew, he participated in cooking competitions, including the Macaroni Kid Cooking Challenge, in which he was one of the top six finalists in the nation, and earned second place overall in his age group.
“We had to cook crepes,” Connor explains, “and that’s kind of a challenging thing to cook. I thought it was going to be something savory, not sweet, because that’s how I entered—I made a spaghetti panini. So when it was sweet, I was super surprised.” Connor ended up creating a parfait crepe with berries, cream, and roasted walnuts.
When he wasn’t in the kitchen, Connor spent time contributing to a Facebook page he created called “Places and Plates.” The page contained videos of Connor visiting local (and some nonlocal) eateries and reviewing his experiences for his viewers, often giving “two thumbs up!” and encouraging locals to visit restaurants he enjoyed with his catchphrase, “Tell ‘em Connor G. sent ya!”
Now at an age when many parents are imploring their kids to step away from bleary-eyed video game sessions, Connor, always a go-getter, enthusiastically spends his time coming up with ways to help those in need. When his Aunt Carol passed away from cancer two years ago, Connor raised money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation by sponsoring macaroni and cheese cook-offs in both Lititz and New Jersey. Not only did he raise over $6,000.00, but he also shaved his head for the cause. “It was a great moment,” he smiles.
After thinking about his cousins with autism, Connor decided to enter the Lititz Fire and Ice Chili Cookoff. Upon winning first place, he donated all of his prize money to The Tommy Foundation, an organization that supports autism awareness and education.
In addition to these amazing achievements, to celebrate his birthday every year Connor and his twin brother choose a charity and ask for donations in lieu of presents. “One birthday, we collected coloring books and crayons and gave them to the Ronald McDonald House,” he says. This past year, Connor raised money for the Lititz Community Chest, an organization that helps feed people in his hometown of Lititz. “We put a box outside, and me and my brother made a few videos. We posted them on Facebook, just going, ‘Hey! We need some food. Can you please help us?’” The pair ended up donating 600 pounds of food to the charity.
When asked why, at his young age, he finds it so important to support his community and people in need, Connor lights up and speaks with a maturity far beyond his years:
“People,” he says, “should be loved equally, no matter their race, no matter if they’re straight or gay. It doesn’t matter. Just be world changers, you know? It can be silly, like a macaroni and cheese cook-off. It was silly, but we did it, and we raised $6,000.”
If more kids would think like Connor Gilbertson, there’s no doubt the world would be a better place.