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Meet The Minnesota Girl Behind 'Simon Says Give'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – If you're not familiar with "Simon Says Give," it's a kid-oriented nonprofit, created by Mandi Simon and her mom, Dina.  Their goal is to help kids in need, but it all started with a conversation in their kitchen.

With her ninth birthday approaching, Mandi wasn't thinking about presents.  She was thinking about raising money for other kids.

"How else can I help," she told her mom, "How else can I really make a difference?  So I thought, well, this might be a great way," Mandi said.

Influenced by the tornadoes that had just hit north Minneapolis, she was full of ideas.

"She was really specific on how she wanted to raise money," Dina said, "and what she wanted to do."

Before long, Mandi – who had been wrapping her birthday parties around charitable events since she was 5 years old – was turning this birthday party into a backpack drive and the Simons were creating a nonprofit based on their name:  Simon Says Give.

Last year, they gave out 1,000 backpacks divided by age groups and filled with school supplies.  This year, they have a goal of 10,000 backpacks, and as Mandi approaches her 11th birthday, their mission has grown beyond backpacks to birthday parties.

"Well, I just kind of thought every kid at least deserves a couple hours or a day to celebrate themselves," said Mandi.

But all those backpacks and birthday parties wouldn't have happened without that first conversation.

"I'm just kind of grateful that my mom actually took the time to sit down and listen to me and was like yeah, let's see how I can help," she said.

Dina said after they reach their goal for kids, the extra supplies donated go to an equally good cause. They're given to teachers who need them to stock their classrooms.

"A lot of the donations that come in, after we give backpacks out we have extra supplies, we definitely give back to teachers because they do need them," said Dina Simon, Mandi's mother.

To donate supplies or backpacks, there are drop-off locations at the Walmart Locations in Maple Grove, Blaine and Andover, at all Twin Cities YMCAs and at each stand-alone TCF Bank location.

To donate during our July 29 phone bank, call 1-800-542-9226. The phone bank will be open from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m., 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 10:35 p.m. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will go towards backpacks and supplies.

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