13-Year-Old Founder of TJ’s Turkeys a ‘Hometown Hero’
TJ is a 13-year-old boy who is helping families that are less fortunate than his own celebrate the holidays.
He founded TJ's Turkeys when he was nine and has been working to give families in need food and gifts ever since. "Ultimately, [TJ] hopes that [he] will inspire other kids to help out their communities and make a difference too."
As part of the “Hometown Heroes” series, we’ve partnered with County Waste, Latham Ford, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region and Awards by Walsh to celebrate local unsung heroes for their good deeds and honorable work.
We asked TJ a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What inspired you to start TJ's Turkeys?
A: I started TJ's Turkeys when I was nine years old after talking to my mom about what we wanted to do for Thanksgiving. One of the options was to help out at the local food pantry. At that point in my life, I did not yet understand that some people did not have Thanksgiving dinners. After my mom explained it to me, that some people couldn't afford a holiday dinner, I said "I have to help," because I didn't want any kid to go without a holiday dinner.
Q: What's the most rewarding thing about what you do?
A: The most rewarding thing about TJ's Turkeys is that after working so hard and putting so much effort in, I wonder, "is it all worth it?" I immediately get my answer when I help carry out the food and gift bags to people's cars. The feeling of giving to others in need is just priceless. And especially when I see the look on the kids' faces after I hand them their gift baskets. I feel so happy about what I do.
Q: What are some challenges?
A: TJ's Turkeys takes a lot of effort. From late August through Easter, I am constantly working on TJ's Turkeys. This includes raising money by going door-to-door, sending out emails, going to businesses, posting flyers, and talking to people, plus organizing and running fundraisers and events. Then, we shop for meals, gifts, candy, and supplies, and put them together in bags and baskets, depending on the holiday. And then we distribute them. It really adds up. Luckily I have the help of friends, family and people in the community.
Q: Do you consider yourself a "hero?" Why or why not?
A: I have to admit that it's hard to call yourself a hero when you are saying it to a lot of people but to be honest, I do consider myself a hero. After helping out so many families and raising about $10,000 this past holiday season at the age of 13, I think it would be hard not to call yourself a hero. But when saying it to so many people it really makes you second-guess yourself and you really have to take a step back and think about it. But in the end, I think that I am a hero to the kids and families that I make a difference for.
For more information or to donate to TJ's Turkeys, click here.