Jayden Perez is eight years old, a third-grader in New Jersey who has Puerto Rican branches on both sides of his family tree. Just after Thanksgiving, when Christmas is on everyone’s mind, he came to his mother with a wish to give to those in need in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
“He came to me and he was concerned that it’s Christmas and they’re not going to have toys,” said his mother, Ana Rosado, to HuffPost. “It started out with him telling me he wanted to donate his toys to the children in Puerto Rico.”
Since his own stock of toys didn’t seem like enough, the boy decided to ask the other people in his football team to help him out, and then expanded his efforts with an emotional video posted to Facebook.
In the video, he stands in front of a stack of toys already donated, holding a cardboard sign he made and illustrated himself.
Kids lost a lot of their toys, and now they don’t have any. So can you donate one toy, from the bottom of my heart and the bottom of your heart?”
Thousands in Puerto Rico are still homeless, with mismanagement and further flooding keeping restoration efforts at a near-standstill. Many children from Puerto Rico have been shipped north into the United States, since there’s no estimate as to when they will have schools open again. But plenty remain, unable to leave despite damaged homes and injured cities.
After the video and a toy drive brought in hundreds of donations, Rosado decided that merely mailing the toys off wouldn’t be enough. Jayden’s family will instead be flying to the island in January, spending four days on the island around Three King’s Day, a traditional gift-giving holiday in the Caribbean.
“I think it’s a great experience for Jayden to see what these kids have gone through and the smile that he’s going to bring to them when he gives them the toys,” said Rosado to the Huffington Post.