New Jersey 8-year-old Emilio Flores overheard his parents talking about making a donation to a local food bank to support families struggling with coronavirus lockdowns.
It was just days before his birthday when the boy had the bright idea to ask for food donations in lieu of gifts to celebrate his day.
“The next day he came to us with this handwritten letter and asked if he could use his upcoming birthday as an opportunity to collect donations for the food bank too. So we made copies of his letter and hand-delivered them to our neighbors up and down the block,” said his father Javier Flores, of Lyndhurst, N.J.
The birthday wish spread by word of mouth and social media; within 48 hours, cars, walkers, bicyclists and even members of the Lyndhurst Police Department had made their way to the Flores home to drop off donations. Bags of food began piling up, mixed in with balloons and cards for the birthday boy. The family estimates they received more than 4,000 food items to donate.
One local restaurant owner, Salvatore Siconolfi, brought over not only a food donation but a tray of penne vodka and a $100 gift card for the family, as Emilio’s mother Mayra is battling breast cancer.
“Even the mayor stopped by!” Emilio said, referring to Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso.
“It’s great to see such an effort in Lyndhurst. Sometimes, something very good can come from something very bad,” Giangeruso said.
“We were concerned about the weather possibly washing out Emilio’s birthday wish, but then the sun came and the whole community appeared. Emilio’s selflessness gave us all a gift on his birthday,” said Erin Keefe, Lyndhurst mom of four.
“To see such an abundance of food come together in such a short time is truly amazing. It’s going to be hard to top this birthday,” Mayra Flores said.
“People that lost their jobs still have to feed their kids. I’m glad that families will have food to eat,” said Emilio, who is currently deciding between paleontologist or “food bank guy” for a future career path.