Granite Falls boy's Christmas wish sparks canned-food drive

Dec. 13, 2013 @ 03:49 PM

It was the Friday before Thanksgiving, and it was quiet in the Curtis home in Granite Falls.

Quinten Curtis, 9, was home. His older brother, Harrison, was away at a sleepover. Their mom, Becky, was standing in the kitchen when she realized she hadn’t yet gotten a Christmas list from Quinten.

“You haven’t talked at all about Christmas,” she told him. “What do you want this year?”

Becky Curtis was shocked when her fourth-grader told her he didn’t really need anything. Surely there’s something you want, she told him.

Quinten was quiet for a moment, then responded with one word: “Soup.”

By then, Curtis wasn’t at all sure what was going on, so she handed Quinten paper and a pencil and told him to make a Christmas list – knowing, she said later, that would buy her some time to figure out what Quinten meant by “soup.”

When she came back just a few minutes later, the task was done. In the sprawling handwriting of a 9-year-old, Quinten had addressed his list to Santa, Jesus and God. He wanted two things for Christmas: a clarinet, and 100 cans of soup. That’s when he explained it to his mom: For Christmas, he wanted to feed people who didn’t have enough food.

“I just knew that a bunch of people in the world were hungry,” Quinten explained in an interview this week. “I wanted to do something to feed them.”

Becky and her husband, Dr. Richard Curtis, took Quinten and Harrison to Walmart that night to clear out the soup aisle. They bought the 100 cans, and drew some attention while they were at it.

“When we were gathering up the cans, people were looking at us, and their eyes popped out really wide,” Quinten said.

They donated the pile of food to South Caldwell Christian Ministries, but as people started hearing about what they’d done, Quinten’s simple Christmas wish inspired others.

The Curtises’ church, First United Methodist in Granite Falls, collected more than 300 cans.

Other churches and individual families joined in. One church member walked up to Quinten and handed him a $100 bill. A family donated a stack of nonperishable food in boxes and packets because their 5-year-old was worried people would get sick of soup.

As the piles of food grew, the Curtises realized the drive needed a name. They coined it “Quinten’s Cans,” made signs and set up a collection box at Martin & Co. Hair Styling in Lenoir.

As of mid-day Thursday, the total stood at 612 cans. All will be donated to South Caldwell Christian Ministries.

The Curtises tried to raise both of their boys to be generous, Becky Curtis said. When Quinten and Harrison were younger, they knew that for each toy they received at Christmas, they’d be selecting one of their older toys to give away. They were supposed to know that having enough doesn’t mean you keep it for yourself.

All the same, Quinten’s parents were flabbergasted by this year’s Christmas list.

“We just thought, he’s nine,” Becky Curtis said. “He should be saying, ‘I want this, this and this.’ I shouldn’t have even finished my sentence by the time he’s hitting me with everything he wants. We were pretty blown away.”

With the holiday now a little more than a week away, Quinten will likely be able to check off both items on his Christmas list. There will be a clarinet, he hopes, on Christmas morning, and there are 100 cans – times six.