INDIAN TRAIL – Joseph Brundrett walked into a town council meeting with a list of 15 children who needed Christmas presents. He left the meeting with commitments to help from a dozen people.
Brundrett, a high school senior, spent this holiday season partnering with Cindy’s Hope Chest, a nonprofit run by Cindy Summers through his project, Joe’s Jolly Elves. Cindy’s Hope Chest works with women battling breast cancer.
Summers compiled a list of more than 35 children whose mothers were battling breast cancer this holiday season. Brundrett asked the Indian Trail community to rally together to provide gifts for them.
“It is a really hard thing to go through, especially when you have kids and you’re sick and worried about what to do and make sure they get what they need,” Summers said. “But a lot of times, you’re not feeling well and financially, you might be tight, so it’s really cool to see kids who care about this.”
Summers gives Brundrett the names of the children, along with their ages and clothing sizes. This way, Brundrett can make sure each child gets something that is age-appropriate and something they really want, rather than a generic gift.
The project started two years ago before Brundrett’s sister left for college. Brundrett has taken the reins.
This year’s list is the longest one Summers has compiled. She works with women battling breast cancer year-round and has a personal connection to her nonprofit and Brundrett’s project.
“It just touches my heart because my kids were young when I was battling,” Summers said. “When people go the extra mile to help the kids, that’s what makes us moms fight a little bit harder and feel a little bit better.”
Summers said when Brundrett started, he had to advertise through social media and attend town council meetings. Now that he is established, the community knows where to find him at this time of year when they want to donate.
After his announcement this year at the town council meeting, Summers said she got many calls from people in attendance who asked if there was any more they could do to help.
Brundrett said Mayor Michael Alvarez has also played a big part in helping spread the message.
“He gives me the influence to reach more people,” Brundrett said.
Brundrett said Alvarez has put him in contact with people who may not ordinarily consider donating to a high school student’s cause. He also said people have recognized him publicly because of Alvarez spreading his message.
“He’s a local kid helping kids,” said Claire Brundrett, Joseph’s mother. “It’s hard to say no to that.”
Claire said the community coming together to help children in need is a testament to the people of Indian Trail.
“They just, right there, opened their hearts and opened their wallets,” Claire said. “And that’s what Indian Trail is. They just open their hearts when somebody’s in need. They come together as a community.”
Claire said she is glad Summers and Alvarez have given her children the ability to make an impact.
“As a mom, my big takeaway is that I’m just so amazed by the power of kids,” Claire said. “When kids in the community are given the access and the opportunity, the impact is immeasurable.”
Brundrett said he hopes to continue his community service and charity work in the future as he enjoys making people happy and putting smiles on their faces.
Those hoping to get involved with Cindy’s Hope Chest can visit www.cindyshopechest.com.