What were you doing when you were 13 years old, right around this time of year?
Were you on holiday break from school? Hanging out with your friends, by chance? Longing for the presents set to arrive on Christmas morning?
Or were you out shopping for gifts, for children you didn’t even know, who won’t be able to make it home for the holidays?
We have to imagine that for most kids, it’s probably NOT the latter.
But that’s what Teddy Pentz has been up to.
In fact, Teddy, a 13-year-old from Eustis, Florida, raised more than $500 through a virtual toy drive – and then hit the stores. He was able to buy enough items to fill eight large boxes for the kids at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, said Krista Pentz, Teddy’s mother.
“He and I went shopping. (Seeing as he’s) a 13-year-old, yeah, he filled the cart in about 15 minutes!” she said with a laugh.
Pentz said she’s proud of the work they did, adding that they had a budget, they stuck to it, and they were able to get a ton of fun items, including some of the bigger wish-list trends of the season, like Pop Its and Squishmallows.
Considering the pair knew they’d be purchasing items for children in the hospital, they did have some requirements to follow: These had to be indoor toys, for example, and of a certain size. But they found what they needed.
Teddy loves doing acts of service for others, his mom said. He even told Krista, “Giving feels way better than anything I could get under my tree.”
Teddy has always been like this – it’s almost as if he was born “extra empathetic,” Pentz told us.
On his 5th birthday, Teddy requested donations to Relay For Life, benefitting the American Cancer Society. Yes, when he was 5. The effort was organized through a friend, so Teddy obviously didn’t handle any logistics, but he knew he’d be helping a worthy cause, and that’s what mattered.
“Any chance he gets -- like, sometimes with project money, he’ll leave large tips for waitresses and servers,” Pentz said. “He’s a cool kid.”
“Project money,” by the way, refers to Teddy’s Giant Heart Project, which is still relatively new.
It all started last year, when Krista asked for cards to celebrate Teddy’s April birthday. Some people in their lives started sending money, but Teddy said he’d rather the money go toward feeding our first-responders and health care workers during the pandemic, which was just unfolding in the U.S. at that time.
Once people found out what he was up to, they sent more money, Pentz said.
Teddy took the funds and then he’d set up lunch or dinner for these vital front-line workers -- with some help, of course, but it really was his project. Over the months that followed, Teddy grew a bit of a following, which led to the Facebook page, which most certainly helped with the holiday shopping idea this year.
Teddy actually organized a similar effort in 2020 – donating some money to Arnold Palmer, intended for gifts for the children who wouldn’t be able to enjoy Christmas at home. But this year, Teddy and his mom thought it’d be fun to make it an even bigger project.
Once again, Facebook helped spread the word: For the month of December, they’d do a toy drive. And the response was awesome. The group online consists of many relatives and friends, but there are some outsiders, as well. Their generosity led to that shopping trip you see photographed above.
If you visit Teddy’s page, it gives you hope for the future and for the next generation, reading, “Though originally set up during the beginning of quarantine to deliver food to first-responders and health care workers, Teddy’s Giant Heart Project also recognizes hard-working employees and people who spread kindness to their communities. If a pre-teen can spread kindness, you can too!”
We just love that.
Added his mother, “(Teddy’s) heart is so big, and I’m just so proud of him.”