This Christmas will be one that J.R. Gilbert will never forget.
The San Antonio teen’s classmates banded together this week to buy Gilbert, a special needs student who has hydrocephaly and ADHD, two pairs of new Nike sneakers after realizing the shoes he was wearing were two-and-a-half sizes too small.
"I didn't find out until late last night," Gilbert’s mother, Linda, said Saturday. "It was just the sweetest thing ... This is one of those instances where he was able to see that he has a lot of friends."
Salvador Solis, one of Gilbert’s classmates at Somerset High School, decided to spearhead the fundraising effort after the two had a discussion in math class on Tuesday.
"He was telling me that his shoes didn't fit him and if I knew someone who wore a size 13. I didn’t," Solis said. "It bothered me that one of my friends didn’t have the appropriate things he needed so he could be comfortable. I wanted to do something.”
So the 17-year-old junior, along with two of his buddies, Roger Villegas and Martin Ramos, began asking their friends to contribute money so they could purchase new shoes for Gilbert.
Approximately 20 students donated a total of $180. On Friday — the last day before Christmas recess — a group of Gilbert’s classmates presented him the shoes.
"What? You got my favorite kind too!" said Gilbert, beaming.
Video of the memorable moment was posted by the school on Facebook and went viral with almost four million views.
Linda Gilbert said her son does own other pairs of shoes but she has a hard time making the sophomore wear them. But this time might be different.
"He loves to try to wear those boots because they're from his papi," Linda said of her son's old shoes. "They were a gift from his papi and they don't necessarily fit."
She called the students’ gesture "really sweet."
"He can't do things other students do like play football. So when something like this happens, it makes him feel good."
Somerset Mayor Lydia Hernandez said that since the post from Somerset High School was picked up and circulated on social media, people from around town have joined in on the giving spirit.
"A couple of people offered locally to send him Christmas presents," she said. "Since school is out for Christmas break, we asked them to send the gifts to city hall."
Thousands of people across the country applauded the students’ giving spirit on Facebook.
"Love this. You young people should be proud because I know I am and I don't even know any of you. Nice to see something positive," wrote one woman.
"All of you kids are GREAT!! Not many students would do what you did. The smile on this young man’s face is PRICELESS !! You truly showed the meaning of friendship and giving a young man something he really NEEDED and wanted," wrote another.
The gesture wasn't a one-way street. Solis said watching Gilbert unwrap the shoes "brought joy to my heart."
"To be able to make someone’s Christmas one to remember, it’s something that’s going to stick with me for a while," he said.