Actor David Henrie is the new spokesperson for Cross Catholic Outreach’s “Box of Joy” initiative, a program that he said has enriched his own family’s Advent season and brought happiness to children in developing countries.
“Box of Joy is a shoebox-sized package that you fill with toys, clothing, school supplies and other treasured items or a box of those items sponsored by a donation and packed by Cross Catholic Outreach’s ministry team,” says Cross Catholic Outreach’s website about the program featuring the Team Joy ministry that began in 2014.
In addition to gifts, “each child who receives a Box of Joy also receives a rosary and a booklet in their own language that tells The Story of Jesus,” said Cross Catholic Outreach.
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“Box of Joy provides hope to children in need. Each gift represents Christ’s love and might be the only Christmas gift they receive,” the group added.
Henrie is best known for the role of Justin Russo in the TV show “Wizards of Waverly Place.” In an interview, he told Fox News Digital that he first got into contact with Cross Catholic Outreach over the summer — and was instantly drawn to Box of Joy.
“It really has a soft spot in my heart,” said Henrie, a father of three children who now lives in Idaho.
“It instantly brought to mind the fact that I want to teach my kids how to give over Christmas and just in general, have a spirit of recognizing the works of mercy in others and doing it.”
Henrie said he liked that the process of picking out gifts could involve his children — something they could do together.
He particularly liked “the idea of giving someone an experience around doing good as opposed to just teaching them,” saying that this was “a powerful way to build habits.”
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“It’s something I could do with [the children] and give them an experience and have fun with it at the same time,” Henrie said.
“We went to the toy store to pick out their favorite toys and packed the boxes.”
Once people assemble a box, they can take it to a drop-off location, where it will be vetted before it’s sent to a child in need, said Henrie.
Individuals can also donate to Box of Joy if they do not wish to assemble a box themselves.
In 2022, nearly 119,000 boxes were sent to children in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras and Malawi, said Cross Catholic Outreach, which is based in Boca Raton, Florida.
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Henrie recently traveled to the Dominican Republic to deliver gifts to children in person.
Henrie hopes the lesson in kindness and charity will make an impact on his kids as they grow up.
He said he found the experience of building and delivering a Box of Joy to be “incredibly fruitful” for his family — in ways he did not necessarily expect.
“My kids didn’t know that [some] other kids don’t get gifts on Christmas,” he said.
His eldest daughter, Pia, age 4, does not yet have a concept of poverty or the conditions in developing countries, said Henrie.
“As kids, it’s even more of a revelation when they realize there are kids who don’t have gifts,” said Henrie.
“My daughter now prays for the little girl that’s [otherwise] not going to get a gift. She doesn’t know who’s getting her Box of Joy — but she knows that [a] girl is not getting a gift.”
“So now, at night, when we pray, she prays for the ‘girl with no presents,’” said Henrie.
“She knows there’s a girl out there with no presents” that she needs to pray for, he said.
He hopes this lesson in kindness and charity, he said, will make an impact on his daughter as she grows up, and that she’ll “have a heart for those in need.”
“It’s opened up conversation in a really organic and healthy way,” he said.
The mission of Cross Catholic Outreach is “to mobilize the global Catholic Church to transform the poor and their communities materially and spiritually for the glory of Jesus Christ,” says its website.
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