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One Teen, One Thousand Shoe Boxes for Children in Need

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A Cedar Rapids teen is setting his sights high to help children around the globe who are living in poverty.

It all started with one shoe box, which he packed years ago for Operation Christmas Child. That's an organization that sends shoe boxes filled with small gifts to children living in impoverished countries who wouldn't get a gift for the holidays.

"The first shoe box I packed, I packed ten or eleven years ago and it was just, we did one box as a family," said Stephen Carrick, 15, of Cedar Rapids.

Now, the teen's goal is one thousand shoe boxes. Without any suggestions from his parents, Carrick set out on a mission at the beginning of the year to collect all those boxes and the small gifts to fill them. He wants to finish by the deadline set for the Operation Christmas Child collection, which is Monday, Nov. 19.

"It's kind of scary," Carrick said. "That's a lot of responsibility to try to do a thousand boxes."

The Cedar Rapids Collection Site Coordinator John Zamastil has been working with the teen throughout the process and watching his progress.

"It's quite the thing he has going on this year ... It's amazing," Zamastil said.

Stephen contacted local shoe stores to collect boxes and asked people from his church, where his dad is the pastor, to donate toys, candy and school supplies.

"They say every day they go over to the church and there are shoe boxes or stuff to put in shoe boxes, so people are reaching out to him," Zamastil said.

Carrick even has shipping pretty much covered. The 15-year-old did what you couldn't force some teens to do. He cleaned the entire church for a whole year to raise money for postage.

"It entails vacuuming everything, cleaning the restrooms, doing the windows," Carrick said.

Despite all the work, Carrick said it has been worth it.

"Something as small as a shoe box is a major gift to many of the kids who receive it," Carrick said.

The teen is currently short of his goal. Right now he has 635 boxes filled with gifts. He's collected more than a thousand shoe boxes, but doesn't have enough to fill them all. Carrick also has raised about $4,000 to give to Operation Christmas Child for shipping.

If you want to help him reach his goal, you can email him at

Carrick plans to deliver all of his gift-filled boxes to the collection site on the final day of this year's collection on Monday. This week is a national collection week for Operation Christmas. The Cedar Rapids site has a goal of sending 8,000 shoe boxes to several countries. They'll get quite a boost from Carrick's donation.

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