Though at first glance it may seem otherwise, there’s nothing little about Ava Lausterer.

Just nine years old, the Wahoo Elementary third grader already has made a big impact on behalf of Tabitha’s Elders. Despite her bursting-at-the seams extracurricular schedule and following days filled with volleyball, basketball, track and softball practices, piano lessons and dance classes, she still somehow finds time to hone her self-taught passion as a fundraiser-in-training.

It began at age six, when she and her older brother received birthday money from their uncle; but there was a catch.

“He said the money was to give away,” Ava explained. “We could choose any organization we wanted, but it had to go to someone who needed it.”

Ava knew where her Uncle Heath worked, and she understood that his job as vice president of the Tabitha Foundation meant that he helped people. People who needed it. She’d been to his office, met the residents at Tabitha Nursing and Rehabilitation Center; she’d even delivered Meals on Wheels with him.

“It was all her idea,” explained Ava’s mom, Julie Lausterer. “And it’s been eye-opening for everyone in the family.”

After donating to Tabitha that first year, Ava’s giving became an annual tradition . . . and then some. For her eighth birthday, instead of a party she decided to set up a lemonade and candy stand with 12 of her friends, with all proceeds going to Tabitha. The year after that, she ran a hot chocolate booth before a Husker home game. Those profits went to Tabitha, too.

“Her birthday checks were the catalyst,” Julie Lausterer said. “But since then she’s gone full-force without any prompting.”

Along with her parents and siblings, Ava has helped with benefit events for other organizations, too, even once growing—then cutting—her hair for Pantene’s “Beautiful Lengths," a donation program providing wigs to female cancer patients.

Her giving efforts, Ava said, are in honor of her great-grandparents who are in their nineties.

“I want to help people who can’t help themselves,” she said. “It makes me feel good.”

Ava wouldn’t say what’s in store for her 10th birthday this fall, but you can bet it’ll be something to make her beneficiaries grateful— and her family proud.

“She’s gained a lot of life lessons in compassion,” said her mom. “It’s been her hands, her talents, her heart.”