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      Boy asks for donations in lieu of birthday presents

      Soren is raising money for the Father Fred Foundation, an organization with a mission of helping those in need.

      When it comes to birthdays, it's fair to say most people like getting gifts. One northern Michigan boy decided to give up his presents this year, to help out less fortunate people.

      Soren O'Neill Gest, 6, just finished kindergarten at Long Lake Elementary School. He??s just like other boys his age, riding bikes and getting dirty, but Soren is helping make a big difference in strangers?? lives.

      Soren is raising money for the Father Fred Foundation, an organization with a mission of helping those in need.

      Instead of asking for more toys for his birthday, Soren is asking for donations.

      ??I'm raising money for Father Fred because it's nice for poor people so they can have a roof over their head,?? Soren explained.

      Soren made the big-kid decision for his birthday on June 7.

      ??Instead of birthday gifts, my mom, we thought about our aunties and uncles donating money to Father Fred in my name. So [poor people] don't get cold and die in the winter and they don't get lightning shocked in a thunderstorm.??

      It's part of an online fundraiser, put on by Art Van Furniture. The Father Fred Foundation is one of 55 charities competing for a $75,000 grant.

      Soren's mom, Joan O??Neill is the communications manager at Father Fred. She??s proud of her little boy, who has charmed his family, friends, and even strangers into helping out his cause.

      ??Once he saw how much he was raising he just really got excited,?? said O??Neill. ??There been complete strangers who donated to his calls. It's been really fun to see the amount rise well beyond what we ever thought was possible. Now he wants to raise $1,000 which is far beyond his original goal of $100.??

      The selfless boy wants to be like his mom when he grows up, working at Father Fred.

      ??It really warms my heart that Soren warmed up to the idea and took it upon himself. It really tickles me that he appreciates that I work your father Fred,?? said O??Neill.

      Soren also has another charitable idea.

      ??I want to have the hospital for poor people in case they need medical care and the other place is full.??

      The money being raised for Father Fred is going toward housing assistance for people who might be in danger of eviction or trying to get into an affordable housing option.

      The Art Van Charity Challenge ends Monday, June 23. The charity that raises the most money will get a $75,000 grant from Art Van. The top ten charities will receive smaller grants.

      Father Fred is currently ranked seventh.

      You can find a link to help out Soren on the Father Fred website.