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Rochester Girl Spends Allowance on Statue for Vandalized Museum Garden

Read how one fourth-grader and a pig named Wilbur turned a rare act of destruction into a simple act of giving.

Editor's note: This story was originally posted on Rochester Patch on Nov. 28; it has been chosen as Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day. See the story as it appears on The Huffington Post here.

Rochester Hills, Mich. - It was Thanksgiving morning when 9-year-old Nicole Bernstein, out for a walk with her family, learned about the random crime that would spur her to action.

The Bernsteins live near the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm; the night before Thanksgiving, vandals smashed several concrete animal statues and other pottery in the Children's Garden at the museum. Some light fixtures and a park bench were also destroyed. 

That morning, while walking their dog, the Bernsteins ran into museum director Patrick McKay, who was outside cleaning up the mess.

"As frequent visitors to the museum, they too were shocked," said McKay about the Bernsteins.

In the days that followed, as McKay describes it, daughter Nicole "sprang to action."

Nicole counted her money — she had $36 — and took it to a nearby store that sells pottery. She bought a pig statue, named the pig Wilbur and brought it to the museum on Tuesday. 

"I bought it with my own money because I really was not happy that the vandalism happened, because I love that place," she said. 

She used allowance money from her grandma to buy the statue, which she said fits with the farm theme of the garden. She named it for the pig in a favorite book, Charlotte's Web. 

"I wanted to help Van Hoosen after the vandalism because I knew some people would be unhappy about what people did to the garden," she said. 

Nicole's dad, Phil, said the donation was all his daughter's idea. "I was a little bit shocked, but she didn't think twice about it. We offered to pay for half the statue, but she wanted to do this."

Nicole, a fourth-grader at Hugger Elementary School, loves animals and has donated her own money in the past to the Michigan Humane Society, her dad said.

McKay, the museum director, said he was "speechless."

He said Wilbur will be kept inside until spring, when Nicole can help him pick the best location for the statue. He said the vandalism at the museum amounted to about $1,000 in damage — though there is no price on the labor of love that went into creating the garden. "I find it amazing that such a frustrating event can have such a positive ending," he said. 

Sherry November 30, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Such a great story about an obviously compassionate and generous young person!! Thank you.
David Gifford November 30, 2012 at 12:15 PM
We all need to pitch in to improve and protect our resources. Hope she will be an inspiration to all who hear about this.
Kim November 30, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Nicole, thank you for being such a kind young girl. I can't wait to meet Wilbur in the spring. And thank you Rochester Patch for writing about her good deed. And lastly, thank you to Nicole's parents for raising a community-minded young person. I hope you'll save this article and all the nice comments for Nicole to show her own children someday. Every time I see kids doing things like this it gives me real hope for the future.
June Hopaluk December 06, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Congratulations, Nicole. It is wonderful that we can talk about your good deed rather than about the vandals that did the damage. You are a generous and kind girl who will make a difference in your school, in our community and our world.
Kristin Bull December 10, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Just learned Nicole will be honored for her good deed by the Rochester Hills City Council tonight!

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