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Clay fourth-grader organizes fourth annual blanket drive

DJ Villnave, of Clay, is collecting blankets for the Rescue Mission. This is the third year the 9-year-old has conducted the blanket drive. Here, he stands beside the drop box at KWS Bear Road Elementary, where he is a fourth-grader.

DJ Villnave, of Clay, is collecting blankets for the Rescue Mission. This is the third year the 9-year-old has conducted the blanket drive. Here, he stands beside the drop box at KWS Bear Road Elementary, where he is a fourth-grader.

— “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, after collecting 253 last year. He hopes to reach 300 during this year’s drive, which he and his family call DJ’s Gift of Warmth.

“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 [two years ago] that he was able to really verbalize it and conjure up an idea that really made an impact on other people.”

It was DJ’s ambition to help those in need that prompted him to hold the drive in January.

“People don’t care about other people after the holiday season,” DJ said. “I wanted to do something so people are still caring about people that are cold and are poor.”

“He wanted to make sure that we do it after the holidays, because lots of people give during the holiday season, so he wanted to make sure that everyone still continued to give,” said Sara Villnave.

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