Two years ago, when Walt was five years old, he saw a commercial that he couldn’t get out of his head. It was about a company collecting pajamas to give to foster children for the holidays.
Walt thought about how it must feel not to have your own pajamas—one of the few things foster kids can take with them when they move from home to home. A month or so passed, and Walt couldn’t stop thinking about it. So he decided to take action.
Walt and his little sister, Naima, have grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s an area with a lot of prosperity—and a lot of disparity. The stark difference between its various residents can spark uncomfortable conversations, but ones their parents, Celina and Jeff, don’t shy away from. Instead, they use those moments to teach Walt and Naima about kindness and how they can help others—even if it’s just saying “Hello.”
Walt and Naima’s mother, Celina, is a former nonprofit volunteer coordinator who has made it her mission to help parents find ways to give back with their kids.
Their father, Jeff, is a teacher and basketball coach focused on helping teens build character and live better lives.
Their grandmother volunteers her time as a court-appointed special advocate for foster children.
With all of their positive role models, it was only a matter of time before Walt and Naima found a way to give back, too.
On January 23, 2016, Walt’s 6th birthday, he told his friends and family that he didn’t want normal gifts—only pajamas. He also asked his mom to set up a GoFundMe to gather more donations for their pajama drive, and in just a month they raised over $4,000.
While Walt was the public face of the campaign, his sister Naima (only 4 years old at the time) chipped in behind the scenes to “look for deals” on PJs and hand-pick the girls items in her self-appointed role of “Girl Pajama Purchaser.” Together, Walt and Naima even made the local news.
Now, Walt and Naima are back at it again. This time their GoFundMe is to support the St. Anthony Foundation, a local nonprofit for people who are homeless and other low-income neighbors.
SAF opened its doors as an emergency shelter during the recent Sonoma County wildfires, when the air quality was so bad across the Bay Area that it was considered unsafe to be outdoors.
Walt and Naima were relieved to hear that SAF helped people escape the smoky air, and they decided then and there to help out with SAF’s upcoming winter shelter operation.
To their mom, Celina, it’s a wonderful thing to watch — not just to see her kids give back, but also to see them working together. “The kids are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. When they are passionate about a project, they’re all in. They truly back each other up.”
Walt and Naima’s new GoFundMe has already raised over $800 in just a week, and they’ve been hard at work volunteering in SAF’s Clothing Program. Walt—ever the optimist—says they hope to raise “somewhere between $1,000 and $2 million” to provide meals, goods, and services to SAF guests throughout the holiday season.