An 8-year-old Filipina girl, a shoebox gift and the boy she married 14 years later
There’s a saying, “Good things come in small packages.” For a little boy from Idaho, USA and a little girl from Quezon City, that saying couldn’t be more appropriate. This might sound a bit like the start of a Disney fairytale, but keep reading. It only gets better.
Their story starts with a project called Operation Christmas Child, where a child sends a shoebox filled with gifts to another child in different country. The then-7-year-old little boy from Idaho, Tyrel, sent a carefully packed box to then 8-year-old girl Joana in Quezon City. It had gifts, and also a photo of a little boy in a cowboy hat, along with a name and address.
Joana loved the box, and sent a return letter telling Tyrel how much she appreciated the gift. She never heard back from him. Undeterred, she kept the boy’s photo, and 11 years later, tried to look for him online. There were lots of names that showed, but among the many Tyrel Wolfes on Facebook, one was particularly promising: It was a man dressed as a cowboy, located in Idaho, with mountains in the backdrop of his profile.
They started messaging. Tyrel was shocked, he remembered sending a shoebox, but never imagined the recipient would reach out to him 11 years later. They clicked, though, and messaged more and more. After a few months they decided they should meet.
13 years and more than 10,000 kilometers later, the little boy in the cowboy hat and the little girl from QC had finally met.
In June 2013, after saving up money for a plane ticket and receiving cautionary blessings from his parents, Tyrel flew to Manila.
“I wanted to spend every moment I could with Joana while I was there, because once I left I didn’t know what would happen next,” Tyrel said. “All I knew was Joana was the one.”
Fast forward to October 5, 2014, 14 years after the small shoebox was sent, Tyrel and Joana were married.
The couple asked all guests to donate shoeboxes to the Christmas Child Program in lieu of gifts. Tyrel and Joana now make it an annual tradition to help pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
“I remember as a little boy, I was so excited to know the toys and other items I put in the box would bring joy to another child somewhere else in the world.
“I just didn’t know the joy it would bring back to me one day.”
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