Big things may come in small packages. But 9-year-old Martrice Walls is proof that one person can make a difference at any age.

With eight tubs, two large bags, a comforter and a bicycle, Martrice and his mom, Beatrice Greene, donated the multitude of items to Operation Once in a Lifetime on Saturday. Martrice had his ninth birthday Dec. 7. He sent out invitations written on notebook paper.

“Instead of gifts, I would like for you all to bring donations to help kids, adults and veterans. Please do not bring presents — we will be donating it to Operation Once in a Lifetime,” the invitations read.

Martrice’s giving nature developed through volunteer work with his mother.

“He grows really fast. We started donating his clothes because he was not getting very much wear out of them,” Greene said. “We volunteered at this homeless shelter and he was helping me serve meals and that’s how it all started.”

Greene said Martrice told her for his eighth birthday that he did not want any gifts but instead wanted to donate shoes to people who didn’t have any.

“I was really proud of him. Most kids don’t do that. They want toys,” Greene said. “He doesn’t really ask for much of anything for himself.”

Greene said she was “shocked” when Martrice told her for the second year that he wanted no gifts, and wanted to donate shoes, clothing and toys.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t have things because they are homeless. I have lots of toys … so, I decided to help out because I have a lot of things,” Martrice said.

Martrice said he was surprised at how many of his party guests were willing to support his efforts.

“I was surprised how everything got big and I just … I didn’t know what to do. I could just scream (with joy),” Martrice said.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class John Valentine who manages Operation Once in a Lifetime was happy to receive Martrice’s donations.

“Our resale center would not be functional without donations. People like Martrice, who has a heart of gold, make our work possible,” Valentine said. “Without them, we couldn’t do what we do.”

It took a car and an SUV to bring in all the donations Martrice received in lieu of birthday presents. He plans to collect even more donations for his birthday next year and offered advice for anyone wanting to do the same thing.

“First, you have to make a plan and then pick a place to donate it to. Plan a day to bring it and make sure you know when they open and close,” Martice said. “And, good luck.”

Contact Wendy Sledd at or (254) 501-7476

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