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Clay youngster collects blankets for the Rescue Mission

DJ Villnave, of Clay, is collecting blankets for the Rescue Mission. This is the second year the 8-year-old has conducted the blanket drive. Here, he stands beside the drop box at KWS Bear Road Elementary, where he is a third-grader.

DJ Villnave, of Clay, is collecting blankets for the Rescue Mission. This is the second year the 8-year-old has conducted the blanket drive. Here, he stands beside the drop box at KWS Bear Road Elementary, where he is a third-grader. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— Once the blankets were collected, DJ and his family organized them into categories — quilts, fleeces, etc. — loaded them into the family’s two vans and carted them off to the Rescue Mission.

“Once we got there, the people at the Rescue Mission were amazing and they actually were able to give us a tour of the facility, the shelter that the men stay in, the store that families get clothing from,” Sara Villnave said. “DJ was pretty excited to be able to see all of those things, to see that not only were his blankets going to be going to the men in the shelter, but going to families.”

DJ said he was glad to see the reactions of the people who would actually use the blankets he’d collected.

“They’re happy,” he said. “They have a smile on their face. They’re like, ‘Thank you.’ It makes me feel happy that I’m giving people something and that they’re happy that they have a blanket.”

That was what prompted him to do the drive again this year, with the permission and support of teacher Bonnie McSpadden, along with his innate need to take care of others.

“I want to help the community and people that are poor and don’t have much,” DJ said. “Because there are people out there who don’t have as much stuff as we have, so I want to give them the stuff that we have.”

DJ’s parents said their son has always been that kind of kid — caring, sympathetic and always thinking about others.

“He’s very non-egocentric,” father Damon Villnave said. “Every kid, they’re only thinking about themselves, but not him. He really cares about what other people are thinking and how they feel. It’s such a special thing to watch develop.”

“He has always looked beyond himself,” Sara said. “He’s always been a unique person, very sensitive, very willing to give of himself to other people. I think it wasn’t until last year that he was able to really verbalize it and conjure up an idea that really made an impact on other people.”

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