Happy Birthday Boxes

August 14, 2015 • United States

A young boy uses his birthday to collect over 100 shoebox gifts for children in need

At Brett Sheranko’s eighth birthday party there were 102 gifts—all intended for hurting boys and girls around the world.

After his church in Lusby, Maryland, didn’t reach their goal of packing 1,500 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in 2013, Brett was disappointed. He decided he wanted to do something about it.

That December, Brett started planning for his November 7 birthday—still 11 months away. For his party, he wanted to invite friends and family to pack 100 shoeboxes with him. Concerned that they wouldn’t be able to come up the shipping costs for that many, Brett’s mother Kelly said, “Let’s just try and do 30 to 40.” But Brett was determined to make his goal.

Word got out about Brett’s project and donations came pouring in. Some gave funds, while others provided items for packing in shoeboxes. Brett’s grandmother, Sharon Moffatt, who works in the chaplain’s office at the U.S. Naval Academy even got her coworkers involved in Brett’s project. “We were getting donations left and right,” Kelly said.

Brett with all of the shoeboxes that were packed for his eighth birthday party

Brett with all of the shoeboxes that were packed for his eighth birthday party

In the fall, a flat, unassembled shoebox from Samaritan’s Purse served as the party invitation for family, friends, and Brett’s former teachers. Kelly and Brett provided instructions and asked guests to bring a filled shoebox in place of any gift for Brett.

They also explained that people could go online, donate $7* for the shipping costs, and learn the destination of their shoebox. However, they didn’t want the shipping costs to keep people from participating. As a family, they were committed to providing what was necessary to ship the boxes to boys and girls in need.

Brett asked extended family members to contribute to the shipping costs, but he also got to work. He sold hot dogs, hot cocoa, and coffee at his great-grandmother’s yard sale to raise the funds.

When Brett’s birthday finally arrived, everyone gathered at the art studio of Cathy Sheranko, Brett’s grandmother, for the packing party. They set up the open shoeboxes on three long tables and organized an assembly line.

“One person had the stuffed animals. One person had the toothbrushes. One person had notebooks. One person had pencil sharpeners,” Kelly said.

In three hours, all the boxes were packed, and the boys and girls at the party had checked them to make sure they had items that each age and gender would appreciate.

Brett and his family built a pyramid of shoeboxes outside and in two carloads transported the boxes to their church. Having shoebox filler items left over, Brett passed them along to a Sunday School class that was still going to be packing shoeboxes.

Brett's birthday cake in the shape of an Operation Christmas Child shoebox with wings

Brett’s birthday cake in the shape of an Operation Christmas Child shoebox with wings

Brett’s motivation for the project was simple. “Operation Christmas Child helps people around the world,” he said. “When people fill shoeboxes with toys, they send it to kids around the world who are poor and needy. The shoeboxes help the people to understand Christ and to understand that there’s always Somebody there even when they’re alone.”

Wanting Brett to see all the steps in a shoebox’s journey overseas, his father Wayne took him to the Baltimore airlift in December 2014 so he could watch shoeboxes being loaded on a jumbo jet en route to children overseas.

Then on a seven-state summer camping trip with the family, Wayne and Kelly stopped by the Samaritan’s Purse International Headquarters in Boone, North Carolina, to tour the Boone Processing Center. “I can imagine how busy it would be during shoebox season,” Brett said.

These visits have fueled Brett’s passion to keep packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. This year for his birthday party, he is hoping to fill 50 to 70.

He said, “I just feel the need to help people around the world.”

*The suggested per shoebox donation is $9 as of 2107.