Touching donations surprise 9-year-old with a special Christmas wish

Joey Johnson has a rare genetic condition, but is focused on giving back to others
An anonymous donor, Relief Beds International, and You Can Toys joined forces to fill Joey’s list

One incredible boy from Indianapolis got his Christmas wish list filled early this year. But it wasn’t Santa making the special delivery, and what he wanted under his tree may surprise you.

Nine-year-old Joey Johnson has mitochondrial disease, a rare genetic disorder that has no cure. It means he needs to use a wheelchair to get around. But his time isn’t spent thinking about what he can’t do, but rather how he can take action to make the world a better place. He and his family have been raising money to donate to World Vision’s Gift Catalog.

Joey and his sister Annie at their home in Indianapolis.
Joey and his sister Annie at their home in Indianapolis.

“I want other kids to be able to achieve their goals and dreams because we are all in this together,” he said.

Joey has saved for months to buy the bicycles for children in need, selling popcorn through his Cub Scout troop. His 5-year-old sister and parents also pitched in to Joey’s Christmas campaign, scrimping and saving work bonuses and tax refunds. They had raised more than $1,000, giving medicine, food, education, animals, a bicycle, and a wheelchair to children around the world in need.

Joey also created a Christmas wish list including: an alpaca, relief beds, soccer balls, wheelchairs and more. His story made national headlines and hundreds of people donated in his name. The story caught the attention of an anonymous donor and several corporations. Now they’ve stepped in to make sure his Christmas wish list is filled.

Joey was surprised with the news that so many people had given to help others in his name when some unusual presents showed up on his front lawn. In all, 100 wheelchairs, 40 bicycles, 14 alpacas, 158 relief beds, 626 soccer balls, and nearly 200 toys were donated in Joey’s name.

“This is like the biggest present I’ve seen in my life. And I’m probably gonna keep going,” said Joey. “I’m gonna keep going until there’s no such thing as the catalog. That means there’ll be no more catalog, because everybody will have at least something that they can use.”

The response came thanks to a community effort. An anonymous donor was moved by the story and gave $25,000 to help fill the wish list.

Relief Bed International donated 100 beds to Joey’s list. “World Vision is a fantastic partner of Relief Bed International and helps us further our mission to provide innovative and strategically built beds for impoverished people in emerging countries, in support of victims of natural disasters and homeless shelters across North America,” says Scott Smalling Relief Bed International Founder.

You Can Toys also heard the story and wanted to help, donating more than $6400 in toys to children in poverty in Joey’s name. Their educational ABC Alphabet Cards and Water Mats will be sent to children overseas – a rare gift for kids who don’t have a toy that is all their own.

Since 1996, the World Vision Gift Catalog has given people the opportunity to better the lives of children, adults and communities in the U.S. and around the world through hundreds of gifts in all different areas of need: clean water, food, education, sexual exploitation, job training and others.  There are over 100 life-saving gifts ranging from $16 to $50,000. In fiscal year 2018, 146,000 people donated more than 310,000 items from the Gift Catalog that helped people around the world raising over $30 million.  To order from World Vision’s Gift Catalog, click here.