(HOUSTON) — A 12-year-old boy from Texas has made it his mission to give back to his community by feeding the hungry and currently helps supply three meals a day for two dozen families every weekend of the school year.
Matthew Reel, 12, of Conroe, Texas, was honored for his hard work and selflessness on Good Morning America on Wednesday with a surprise visit from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who proclaimed July 10 “Matthew Reel Day.”
When asked if he ever thought he would have his own day in his hometown, Matthew quickly replied, “No,” and also spoke about what he wants to accomplish next.
“I want to be the first student-run BackPack Program where kids donate the food and then the kids in that school district get the food back,” he said, explaining that the BackPack Program is “where kids go after [school] on Friday to get food and bring it home to their families that are in need.”
Matthew started his project of buying food and loading up “blessing bags” for the less fortunate in his community on his eighth birthday.
“We had attended a church function and they were making blessing bags to hand out,” his mom, Tammy Reel, told GMA.
“We drove up to a man, and he handed it to him, and the man said, ‘God bless you, little boy,'” she said. “He said, ‘mom I don’t want a birthday party this year. I don’t want presents.'”
Instead, he wanted to use the resources for a party or presents to feed more in need. Eventually, Matthew came to realize that some of those closest to him in his community are the ones who needed help the most.
“He goes, ‘I think that I’m supposed to be helping the kids that I go to school with,'” Reel recalled.
Since he started his project, which emerged into the nonprofit Matthew’s Birthday Wish, Matthew has helped provide meals for 25 families every weekend of his school year. He brings the bags of food he bought to his school and counselors send the supplies home with children whose families are in need of it.
Denise Cipolla the coordinator of guidance and counseling, told GMA that Matthew’s work has “really spoken to other students to give to their communities as well.”
Even the smallest donation to his cause is a big help, his mom said.
“That little boy can shop on a budget,” Reel said of her son. “He had a young woman walk up to him once, and said, ‘I want to help, but I only have a dollar to spare.'”
“Matthew reached over, hugged her, and said, ‘M’am, do you know what I can do with a dollar?'” she recalled.
The 12-year-old’s generosity is turning into an inspiring movement in his community and beyond.
“I don’t like to use the word proud. I like to say humbled,” Reel said of how she feels about her son’s good deeds. “He looks at the world in a completely different way than anybody else does and to be able to walk in his shadow and see his care and compassion for those that are in need, it’s an awesome thing.”
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