Cedar Rapids teen hopes to help 1,000 children in need this year

Stephen Carrick, 14, of Cedar Rapids, fold a tie blanket during a blanket making party at Cedar Rapids Grace Church, in
Stephen Carrick, 14, of Cedar Rapids, fold a tie blanket during a blanket making party at Cedar Rapids Grace Church, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Saturday, August 18, 2012. The blankets, toys, and school supplies are all a part of Operation Christmas Child, which sends the shoe boxes to children in need around the world. (Nikole Hanna/The Gazette-KCRG)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Stephen Carrick was 4 years old the first time he helped his family fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child.

He helped again the next year and the year after that. Then “when he was 8 or 9, he decided he wanted to do his own box,” says Stephen’s dad, the Rev. David Carrick. “He used his own money, finding ways to make money so he could do this on his own.”

That was a decade ago. Stephen Carrick, now 14, eventually decided he could help more children if he got more people involved.

Last year he turned to his church, and Cedar Rapids Grace Church, 2905 D Ave. NE, filled 175 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, a nationwide program operated through Samaritan’s Purse that delivers shoe boxes filled with small gifts to children in need around the world.

“We fill shoe boxes with toys and school supplies, hygiene items and stuffed animals,” Carrick says. “Last year, we ran out of stuffed animals, so we made fleece hand-tied blankets and included those. It’s good to be part of something that’s bigger than you. We’re here, obviously, for more of a reason than just shopping and hanging out with friends.

As the point person for the church project, the teen handles publicity for the program. He also coordinated several blanket-making and box-wrapping parties, both of which are open to the public.

“This is not just a church project,” Carrick says. “I’m trying to get the whole city involved.”

Volunteers can donate items or cash for shipping costs, help make blankets or wrap boxes. It even helps to donate old shoe boxes. There also will be an Operation Christmas Child packing party from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 28.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be something big,” Carrick says. “It can be making one shoe box or buying two bars of soap. It all adds up in the end.”

Last year the “goal was 100 and God gave us an extra 75,” Carrick says. So this year he has set a much higher goal — 1,000 shoe boxes.

Packed and wrapped boxes will be shipped to a distribution center in Minnesota. From there, they will be shipped all over the world.

Stephen Carrick and several members of Cedar Rapids Grace Church will volunteer at the distribution center in November preparing thousands of boxes for shipping.

“I worked in the center last year and there were half a million boxes,” Carrick says. “It was amazing to see.”

While Carrick has his eye on this year’s goal, he’s also thinking to the future. A freshman in high school (he’s home-schooled), he plans to continue supporting Operation Christmas Child throughout high school.

“My goal, by the time I go to college, is to have helped give 10,000 boxes to Operation Christmas Child,” he says. “Or I can do more than that.”

How to help

Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes can be filled with a variety of items. Do not include war-related toys, frightening toys, chocolate, snow globes and other breakable items or vitamins. Donations should be delivered to Cedar Rapids Grace Church, 2905 D Ave. NE, by Nov. 4. For more information, email Stephen Carrick at or visit

Items needed include:

  • School supplies (pencils, pencil sharpeners, markers, crayons and colored pencils, calculators and paper)
  • Personal hygiene items (toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, comb and brush, hand towels)
  • Art supplies (watercolors, coloring books, play dough)
  • Clothing (gloves, socks, hats, T-shirts)
  • Small toys (Matchbox cars, card games, dolls, jump ropes)
  • Miscellaneous (personal first aid kits, flashlights and batteries, sunglasses, plastic cups, candy)

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