Morris boy helps Guatemalan children this holiday season |

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CJ McCool told his mom he wanted to help children in Guatemala for his birthday. (Sarah A. McCarty /

MORRIS, Alabama - A lot of children with birthdays falling near Christmas often fear they will get slighted in the gift department. But 8-year-old CJ McCool of Morris decided to forgo his birthday gift altogether in an effort to help children in Guatemala.

CJ's mother, BeBe McCool, said it all started one weekend prior to his Dec. 6 birthday. "I told him I needed to make a list for his birthday and Christmas," McCool said. "He said, 'Mom, I have all the toys I need, I have friends and family, I want shoes.'" McCool said she told him that he had 10 pairs of shoes in his closet in perfectly good condition. CJ then told his mom he needed the shoes to give to the children in Guatemala.

"It just came out of the blue," said Jim McCool, CJ's dad.

"I just reached into my heart," CJ said, trying to explain the origin of his idea. "That's the only way I can say it."

"He's fully aware of what it means to help others," Bebe McCool said. "We tried to instill that in him. We were just taken in by the whole thing."

CJ McCool with his parents, Jim and Bebe McCool. (Sarah A. McCarty /

The McCools adopted CJ from Guatemala eight years ago. "I was just born there," CJ said. "I did not know anything, but my grandmother had some pictures on the computer about Guatemala that was from me. I was just four months old when my mom came and got me."

In addition to instilling a helping attitude in their son, CJ's parents have worked hard to teach him about his birth, his culture and his heritage, and hope to take him to the country one day in the Future.

"We're up front," Bebe McCool said. "We have talked to him about the conditions of Guatemala and how the children are less fortunate so to speak with materialistic things."

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"He has a heart for the folks," Pastor John Hambright said. "We have missionaries show slideshows from their trips and I reckon I have noticed that some of the kids did not have shoes."

Hambright heard CJ's birthday wish about the week after he told his mom. Bebe McCool said, "Brother John, I need help with a plan." After CJ told Hambright he wanted shoes for his birthday, the pastor said he could get some shoes. "No Brother John, not for me, for the Guatemalan Children," CJ responded.

Hambright contacted Happy Feet, an International Christian Missions organization in Gardendale that provides children in third world countries with shoes. Enon and Happy Feet are working together to make CJ's wish come true. CJ's fundraiser, called Soles for Jesus, invites people to donate money which will then be used to buy shoes for kids in Guatemala. Both the church and Happy Feet are scheduled to visit Guatemala during the same week in June 2013.

CJ announced the plan to his church family earlier this month. "I went up in front of all those people and I had a microphone," CJ said of talking to the 500-plus congregation that morning. "The only way that I imagined it was everybody was in their pajamas."

CJ said he's excited the kids will be getting shoes. "Yeah, I think that's the most important thing about this plan but I think the second most important thing is people giving their money for it," he said.

Bebe McCool said Soles for Jesus raised about $ 300 in the first two weeks.

Jim and Bebe McCool expressed pride in their son, but said they hope people pay attention to the mission itself.

CJ McCool and his dad (Sarah A. McCarty /

"He's our blessing, no doubt about it," Bebe McCool said. "But it's about the mission work." Jim agreed, saying, "The more the word gets out there, the more opportunity folks to donate."

According to CJ, his Elf on the Shelf wrote him a note a few days ago: "I just wanted you to know that I have been telling you about your wonderful birthday you shared with your church. You are a very special little boy. "

To donate to Soles for Jesus, make checks payable to Enon Baptist Church or Soles for Jesus and mail them to Enon Baptist Church at 724 Morris Majestic Road, Morris, AL, 35116.