Christmas is a little brighter for children of impoverished global communities in recent years thanks in part to the efforts of recent Bosco Tech graduate, Grayson Wade.

For nine straight years, Wade has been collecting and packaging a total of 4,000 shoeboxes, each filled with items like toys, school supplies and hygiene products for disadvantaged children. In total, Wade has raised $40,000 for the charity Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child.

But Wade isn’t as interested in the numbers as the message that comes with each shoebox. When a child receives a shoebox, they also receive a booklet that talks about Jesus and other Bible stories, which in many cases, Wade explains, is a rare spiritual aid that even baptized children have never seen.

He was able to experience first-hand the poverty many children face on a Samaritan Purse mission trip to the Philippines, a country where 80 percent are baptized Catholics but where many cities are without a church.

“So even though people declare themselves a Catholic,” Wade explains, “they don’t really live it because they don’t have the spiritual support.”

After the children open their presents, they are invited back for 12 Saturday classes to learn more about their faith, which is called the Greatest Journey presentation. Non-Catholics are also able to receive a shoebox and are invited to take the booklet and come back for the Saturday classes. Children who complete the 12 classes are gifted a copy of the New Testament.

“The goal is to not only educate the kids, the goal is also to have the kids, who are equipped with that knowledge, to go to their friends and family and share that knowledge with them, and form a grassroots evangelization effect,” Wade says.

Wade remembers one island in the Philippines that was occupied by 1,000 people who all relied on one water source and had no stable electricity. The people lived in shanties and their church was just a roof on stilts.

The teacher in charge of the Catechism class also worked a full-time job on an island five hours away, but she would begin the long commute each Friday night, in order to be at the church in time for Saturday morning class.

“It just shows the level of dedication that these teachers have, which is really cool,” Wade says, adding that he wants these stories to inspire others to donate.

Wade says the support from Bosco Tech’s faculty and students were invaluable in helping him achieve his goal, particularly the support from Rudy Herrera, the school’s coordinator of youth ministry. “When I brought this project to him, he was extremely supportive of it,” Wade said, adding that Herrera would encourage the students to help by offering service hours for each shoebox donated.

“The youth ministry coordinator really tried to instill the importance of service and why it is so important to give back,” Wade said—which is why Wade had decided that even though he’s left high school and working through intensive math courses, he’s still going to make time to continue with the charity.

His best donation year was his senior year at Bosco Tech with a total of 1,009 shoeboxes, but this year he says, “I’m shooting for 500 boxes since I’m in college now, and I’m a little bit busier.”

Wade hasn’t forgotten what he’s learned in school about his faith, especially about the power of prayer. While he’s eager to get donations for Operation Christmas Child, he’s just as eager that those unable to donate, at least pray for the success of his efforts.

He not only wants children to experience Christmas but also the joys of Christ. “Pray that all of these boxes being packed nationwide will result in more children coming to know God and Jesus Christ,” he says.