Tyler Hook, 6, stands outside a store in Dupont, ringing his bell and collecting money for the Salvation Army. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchei@madisoncourier.com)
Tyler Hook, 6, stands outside a store in Dupont, ringing his bell and collecting money for the Salvation Army. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchei@madisoncourier.com)
With the temperature struggling to hit 40 on a recent Saturday, 6-year-old Tyler Hook of Madison, stood outside the J and R Corner Grocery in Dupont. With his head tilted down under his furry cap to block the cold wind from hitting his face, the youngster stood hoping that each passerby would leave him with their change or a few dollar bills.

Tyler wasn't collecting money for himself, though. He's a pint-sized volunteer bell ringer for the Salvation Army. When asked why he was spending time in the cold instead of at home or out playing with his friends, Tyler said, "So I can help other children if their parents don't have any money for Christmas. I want to be a friend like Jesus."

Tyler admitted, though, with a sniffle and the tell-tale signs of a recent cup of hot chocolate on his face, "The warm days are better."

As Tyler continued to ring his bell and stand next his small Salvation Army kettle, which sat on a stool outside the store, his mother, Amanda, sat nearby alternating between the family's minivan and inside the store.

"I want to keep an eye on him," Amanda Hook said. "But, Tyler wanted to do this, so I'm trying to let this be his thing without mommy hovering too close."

Amanda said this all started when Tyler was 3- years-old. She and her husband, J.D., who attend Cornerstone Baptist Church in Hanover, have always tried to raise their son with Christian values.

"We've always tried to teach him that, just like God has given to us, we need to give to others," Amanda said.

Previously, this included Tyler wanting to grow his hair to get it cut for Wigs for Kids, which provides free wigs and support for children who have lost their hair because of an illness.

When Tyler was 3, the family was going into a store and Tyler stopped to look at a Salvation Army bell ringer. "He asked what the man was doing with the bell and the bucket," Amanda said. "After we told him, he got right to collecting."

For the first couple of years, she said her son scavenged all the change he could find from couch cushions and from what fell out of clothes in the dryer. Then he asked all his family members for money. He would collect it in a sandwich bag and when he thought he had enough, he'd take it to give to the Salvation Army.

"This year," Tyler said with a teeth-chattering smile, they gave me a bell and a bucket."

Tyler takes his donation kit everywhere he goes, including walks in downtown Madison and along the riverfront.

"He carries it, and as he's walking, people just donate," Amanda said.

So far, Tyler has collected about $120.

Amanda said she will keep coming out to be nearby while Tyler collects for as long as he wants to keep doing it. "This is a better way to spend our Saturday than a lot of other things a kid could be doing. We'll support him in this."