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Lodi’s Artem Smal, who offered money to struggling woman, gets letters from across U.S.

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Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 12:00 am

A 14-year-old boy met a woman in need, and despite carrying just a few dollars, extended the small offering. Now people are flocking from throughout the country, wishing to do something similar for him.

As first reported by the Lodi News-Sentinel on March 30, Artem Smal was making his way from door to door, selling newspaper subscriptions, when he arrived at Robynn Fried's apartment.

Fried opened the door and Smal began reciting his well-rehearsed sales speech. But Fried had to cut him off and explain her situation.

She was unemployed. Money was tight. Her daughter had to pay their rent. But that still wasn't enough to keep them from facing eviction in less than a month.

Smal heard this tale, saw Fried's gloom, and thought he could help.

The boy rummaged through his pocket, then held out a wad of green — the $8 he'd made so far selling subscriptions in the hopes of winning a trip to Lake Tahoe.

After hearing about Smal's selfless offer, people started reaching out to the young boy. Many wrote to the Lodi News-Sentinel and other media outlets, which followed-up on the story, wanting to make donations to Smal.

"I was surprised," Smal said. "I had no idea all these things were going to happen."

Tom, who did not want to provide his last name, was one of those who saw the story and wanted to help Smal.

"What a fantastic person this kid is, even at his young age," he said. "I can only imagine who he is to become. I'm compelled to tell him and to praise him for his selfless, sweet act."

The size of the donations has ranged greatly.

One couple from Folsom, inspired by Smal's gesture, has offered to send Smao and his entire family to Lake Tahoe.

"It amazes me that people who don't even know me are wanting to help me," said Smal, who's received letters from the East Coast. "It feels good."

People near and far have reached out to Fried, as well.

She said that since finding a job as a pharmacy technician a week after Smao stopped by, people have approached her at work, eager to say how they've been inspired by Smal.

"That brought tears to my eyes and gave me the warm and fuzzies," Fried said. "But that's just (Smal). That's what makes it even better. That's just Artem being Artem."

A few days ago, Smal stopped by Fried's house.

The two talked about everything that's happened and the recognition they've received.

"Artem asked why people have wanted to give him money," Fried said. "Still, after all this, he doesn't understand why an ordinary act for him is an extraordinary act for everyone else."

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