12-year-old boy gives back; makes Easter baskets, helping kids in Massachusetts shelters

Penny Kmitt, CNN | 2/9/2024, 3:03 p.m.
Worcester, Mass.: A 12-year-old boy in central Massachusetts is on a mission to make sure every child has a happy ...
A 12-year-old boy in central Massachusetts is on a mission to make sure every child has a happy Easter by making baskets for kids living in shelters. Mandatory Credit: WBZ

Worcester, Mass.: A 12-year-old boy in central Massachusetts is on a mission to make sure every child has a happy Easter by making baskets for kids living in shelters.

Four years ago, Josh Sowden of Worcester started his "Easter baskets for the homeless" campaign after visiting his aunt at a homeless shelter.

"We started to talk about how we could help her with my nephew, who was little at the time, and Josh said we should buy him an Easter basket," Josh's stepmother, Crystal Sowden, told WBZ-TV. "And then he asked us if the other kids were getting Easter baskets."

"We found out that almost every kid in there didn't have an Easter," Josh said, "So we were like, 'Oh my God, how can we help out?'"

With the help of Facebook, Josh constructed and donated 34 Easter baskets. But he didn't stop there.

"It wasn't a one-year thing," said Josh's dad, Nickolas Sowden. "The year after he asked, 'Are we going to do it again?'"

And they did. By the next Easter, Josh made 105 baskets for kids in area shelters. In 2022, he made 150. And last year, he made 175.

But shortly after, in a turn of events, homelessness hit his own family.

"Right after we actually dropped the baskets off last year, we became homeless," explained Crystal Sowden. "We were in a hotel from April to the week before Christmas. And it was definitely tough."

"It just wasn't a great feel, living in a hotel," said Josh. "After we found out that so many people helped us, we thought it would be better to give back."

So, with a newfound sense of purpose, Josh is determined to beat last year's efforts, by making baskets for nearly 200 kids.

"When we were in the hotel, we missed a holiday, and I was fine with it, but it just felt sad," said Josh. "So it was kind of just sad knowing that kids were basically not having holidays."

But Josh can't do it alone. With the help of his family, he created the Josh's "Easter baskets for the homeless" Facebook page. Money will be used to buy the pails and baskets themselves, along with classic Easter items like chalk, crayons, and eggs. The baskets will be filled with different items depending on the age of the child.

"It's heartwarming knowing how much he would like to change the world," added Crystal.