How a Young Runner Gathers Christmas Shoeboxes of Supplies for Children in Need

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By Jacob Rascon

Faith Russell had a dream to bring Christmas gifts to thousands of needy children around the world. So, she turned to running.

The young girl, who was born with spina bifida and about whom doctors once said would never walk, began to invite everyone to her monthly 5K races on one condition: they had to bring shoe box supplies to fill shoe boxes for needy children.

Faith called her plan "Operation Christmas Child." Each shoe box was filled with notebooks, toothbrushes and toys.

"You send them across the world and you make kids happy," Faith told NBC News.

Last year, Faith and her followers filled 500 shoe boxes. This year, the goal was ambitious: 20,000 boxes. As word spread of Faith's new goal to neighbors, churches and more than a dozen companies stepped up to help.

"Wow, we have been working for at least eight weeks, three to four days a week," Faith's mom Robin told NBC news. "It has taken a village."

Robin said the group even surpassed its goal, packing 20,001 school boxes. The final box was sent to 13-year-old Lizeth in Bosa, Colombia. "I'm praying for you, you are loved" wrote Faith in a letter stuffed inside the shoe box.

"I just want to let them know that they are not forgotten," Faith said. "And that they're loved."