Box of Joy Cincinnati Seventh-Grader Helps Impoverished People
By Rebecca Sontag
Katie Claes’ dad came home from work one evening excited about something he’d heard on the radio and told Katie all about it. During that morning’s commute on Sacred Heart Radio’s Son Rise Morning Show, Jason Claes listened to an interview with Jim Cavnar, president and cofounder of Cross Catholic Outreach (CCO), an international Catholic ministry whose mission is to serve the world’s poorest of the poor. The CCO ministry has an assortment of outreach projects aimed at alleviating spiritual and material poverty across the globe, but that morning’s talk was all about the “Box of Joy.”
Jason told Katie what he learned from Cavnar’s interview. Katie, a seventh grader at Cincinnati’s Guardian Angels School, listened intently as her father described a level of poverty unimaginable in the U.S. She learned about children who’d never before received a Christmas gift, children who were thrilled to be given a toothbrush and a bar of soap. Katie was just as excited as her dad – excited to help.
Katie wanted to fill more than just one box, though, so the next day, she enlisted seven of her friends from Guardian Angels School to do the same. The girls knew they would be responsible for filling the Boxes of Joy with recommended items from a provided list, as well as provide a $9 donation for each box to cover shipping costs. They agreed and even decided they would use their own saved-up allowances and birthday money to do so.
Mr. Claes, proud of the children for undertaking the project, requested the eight boxes from CCO for the girls to fill. When 25 boxes arrived, he was a bit concerned. Upon calling CCO, Jason Claes learned that the boxes come in increments of 25, a number that would surely wipeout or exceed the piggy banks of these 12- and 13-year-old girls. They were going to need help.
Upping the Challenge
Katie and her friends were up for the challenge. They couldn’t afford to fill all the boxes themselves, so Katie wrote letters to her dad’s Catholic colleagues and the Guardian Angels Fathers Team, a weekly fellowship group for men in the parish, to encourage them to join in.
They filled all the boxes and collected all the fees. The girls thoughtfully considered each of their purchases, knowing the gender and age of the children who would be opening these gifts. Fuzzy socks, little toys, school supplies and toiletries were carefully arranged and fitted inside. The children gathered at the Claes’ dining room table with markers, glitter glue, colored pencils and paper to make Christmas cards as the final additions to be lovingly tucked inside. They prayed for each child who would receive these boxes and sealed them for shipment.
Mr. Claes and Katie packed up the Boxes of Joy and drove them to the regional collection point, St. Susanna Parish in Mason. The boxes were loaded onto a truck where they would then start making their way to the sponsored children in Central America and the Caribbean.
“I was really surprised when I looked at the list to see where the boxes were going – how people so close to the U.S. are really poor,” said Katie. “I always thought it was people far away, across the world. I was pretty surprised to find out it was people who lived so close to us.”