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8-year-old autistic student raises thousands for Beckwith, Ont. school with popcorn fundraiser

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Still just in Grade 3 at Beckwith Public School, Caleb Bellefeuille already knows how to make a sale.

Bellefeuille, 8, is autistic and finds unique ways of engaging while at school by helping staff with tasks and odd jobs, and injecting a bit of enthusiasm where necessary.

"He is always wanting me to buy things all the time; he's trying to tell me what we need in the school," explains Beckwith Public School Principal Kali Greene.

"And so he came up with this idea of selling popcorn."

Bellefeuille set off to work, ordering shipments of popcorn from Papa Jack's Popcorn, setting prices, and advertising in the lead up to sales.

Last Friday when Bellefeuille's popcorn stand opened for one day only, he sold more than $3,000 worth of the salty snack.

"We sold 1,600 bags of popcorn for the one day," says Greene. "So he's made quite a profit off of that."

The entrepreneurial project was an opportunity for Bellefeuille to step outside his comfort zone and excel in a new way.

"He has trouble engaging in class and going into the classroom. So this is really about all the rest of the students getting to see him in that role," said Greene.

"This allowed him to venture out, do stuff he's never really done before and excel at it," said Bellefeuille's dad, Scott. "It is such an amazing experience for him."

The accomplishment warranted a visit and congratulations from the owner Papa Jack himself, Jacques Lalonde.

"My driver came back and told me a story about how Caleb did all this, initiated the whole program. I just thought it was incredible," Lalonde told CTV News.

Proceeds from Bellefeuille's popcorn sales will now be used to make additions to the school's sensory playroom, a spot available to students with special educational needs.

"He really wants to be a voice for the students within the school, and the students especially with needs," says Greene. "And he wanted the kids to see him in a positive manner, and that's definitely how it's come across."

Greene says the school has already purchased a bubble gum machine for the room, as gum helps calm and focus Bellefeuille.

Lalonde was impressed by the initiative and offer a tour of his popcorn factory to the young entrepreneur.

"Challenges, we all have them, and the way that he took over, it's impressive. I know he's going to do well in life."

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