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Published August 13 2012

Brothers put others first: Forest River teens anonymously gift strangers in need

Cole Fossum and Ben Fossum

Ages: 17 and 16

Hometown: Forest River, N.D.

Parents: Bob and Deb Fossum

Future career plans: Both Midway Public School students are considering going to the University of North Dakota. Neither has settled on a major, but Cole is thinking about economics/business. Ben has thought about law or politics.

How they make a difference in their community: The brothers use their Christmas money from their parents each year to anonymously buy gifts for those in need in their community.

They also helped out on trash duty during Forest River’s 125th anniversary this summer. Ben babysat during their school’s all-class reunion and is active in volunteering through drama and National Honor Society.

Cole has helped his mother with the Midway Community Action League’s silent auction and helped at their church’s vacation Bible school. He also plays baseball.

Both brothers have been involved with student council and Boy Scouts. Both have black belts in tae kwon do.

What their nominator said: “Cole and Ben were out delivering their presents the night before they lost their own home to a fire (last December). Not wanting any outside help, they continually told friends and neighbors that they were ‘fine’ and to remember there were other kids who needed more than they did.

“Cole and Ben are exemplary kids who give to their communities unselfishly and always think of someone who could use a hand.”

Why it’s important to Ben to be so involved: “I guess when something needs to be done, it’s got to get done. You know, if you get it done, then it’s over with and people can have fun. Somebody needs to do it, so might as well be me.”

Why it’s important to Cole to be so involved: “I have a lot of stuff that a lot of other people don’t have, and it makes me feel good, not only for myself, to know that the other person can have a little bit of what I have. “Not everybody gets the same privileges that I’ve had growing up, so I figured that, whatever I can do to help those people out, that’s what I’ll do. And then with the community stuff, it’s just been what’s asked of me by my parents. It just seems like it’s stuff that I should do, so I do it.”

Ben’s favorite volunteering moment: “This Christmas giving thing has really done a lot for me and just opening my eyes that not everybody is as lucky as I am. Sometimes people just need a little help, and I guess that’s what I’m there for: just to make sure they can have a good Christmas and that they can get some presents so that they can still believe in the season.”

Cole’s favorite volunteering moment: “I’d say definitely the present thing. Knowing that I’m helping other people out makes me feel really good about myself.”


Note: This is the third story in a six-part series recognizing teenagers who make a difference in their communities.

Coming up

Wednesday: Jamestown, N.D., girls who give back through sports

Thursday: A Dickinson, N.D., teen who reaches out to a diverse population

Friday: A Moorhead teen who helps youth thrive through knowledge


Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications