Thanksgiving is a holiday all about counting blessings and giving back. But when it comes to Turkey Day charity, Dan and Betsy Nally show more pluck than most. Back in 1996 the brother and sister—then aged 9 and 6—were watching TV in their Westwood, Mass., home and learned a Boston charity was short 5,000 turkeys to give to poor families. “We had to do something; that wasn’t fair,” says Betsy now. “So we ran around the neighborhood knocking on doors.”
Within hours the duo had rounded up dozens of birds, and with help from their father, John, loaded them into the family station wagon. “It was 4 o’clock on Thanksgiving eve, and these parents called and said their kids had collected some turkeys and could they bring them down,” recalls Catherine D’Amato, president of the Greater Boston Food Bank. “They literally had the turkeys in the car.” D’Amato assumed she wouldn’t see the Nally kids again. But the next year they were back—this time delivering hundreds more birds in a U-Haul. “Our parents taught us when you put your mind to something, you can accomplish great things,” says Dan, now 17.
Indeed they have. This year, Turkeys 4 America, the organization the 9th and 11th graders at Westwood High School founded in 1996, hopes to deliver 150,000 lbs. of turkey to families in Massachusetts, Ohio and Illinois with help from hundreds of individual donors, companies, poultry giant Perdue and teen volunteers in those states. New chapters have just been started in Florida and California, and the Nallys have expanded their project by organizing fund drives at local schools to help the needy. “We never expected it to grow,” says Betsy. “It’s amazing.” The Nallys, who see the charity as a tribute to their father, a real estate developer who died of a heart attack in 2001, run the operation themselves. “I don’t do a thing,” says their mother, Cathy, 44, a clothing sales rep. Still, they’re modest about their success. “We’re just average kids,” says Dan.
Ones with big dreams. “We hope to continue this until we end hunger,” says Betsy. “We don’t see it ending soon.”