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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. 

Colleen November 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Nicole, you are an amazing young lady! Whatever you choose to do in life will help make this world a better place. Thank you!
Erin November 29, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Very nice Nicole!
Kristin Bull (Editor) November 29, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Best part of this story: Nicole's no-nonsense summing up to me of why she did what she did: "Because I knew it would make people happy!" I love talking to and writing about kids who make a difference.
Traci Chupailo November 29, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Nicole !! GREAT job !!!!!! You are a very caring person !! We are so happy to know you and your family !!!!! Love, Mrs. C, Mr. C , M & C
Meredith McCutcheon November 29, 2012 at 02:32 PM
What an amazing young lady! We could all learn a lesson from her!
Marianne Maurer November 29, 2012 at 02:39 PM
The best of all stories, Nicole you make us all proud. I have always found that children often know the right thing to do, without recognition, but from the heart. Nicole you did "Make many people happy!"
Patrick McKay November 29, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Because of kids like Nicole and her family, I still in believe in Santa. Patrick McKay, Rochester Hills Museum
Sally Edwards November 29, 2012 at 04:40 PM
How wonderful to have a caring young lady like Nicole in Rochester! Doing good deeds is a real good habit to get into - I hope more people are inspired to follow your generous example! And welcome to Wilbur - I know he'll love his new home!
Linda Eastman November 30, 2012 at 12:11 AM
I, too, live in the neighborhood of the Van Hoosen Farm and have admired and enjoyed the children's garden countless times. Nicole is a remarkable girl with a huge and giving heart. Thank you for caring, Nicole. You have made ME happy, that's for sure! I love the name you chose, too. Charlotte's Web is one of my all-time favorite stories. Some Pig!
Mary Lou Carney November 30, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Thank you Nicole. You are a very special young lady.
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 (Editor) 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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