10-year-old parishioner donates his toys to migrant children

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, September 13, 2023

10-year-old parishioner donates his toys to migrant children

Juan Pablo Benavide staffs the toy table at Ss. Genevieve and Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Parish, located in Chicago’s Belmont-Cragin neighborhood, for a giveaway to migrant families. Juan Pablo donated many of the toys children choose from. Items available included clothes, school supplies, necessary items and toys on Aug. 12, 2023 at the St. Stanislaus Church campus, 5352 W. Belden Ave. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Juan Pablo Benavides, assists a mom with picking out a toy for her daughter on Aug. 12, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Juan Pablo Benavide helps a migrant child pick out a toy he donated during a back-to-school drive to benefit migrant families and local community members in need on Sept. 9, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Some of the toys donated by Juan Pablo Benavides. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Juan Pablo Benavides demonstrates a fidget spinner during the giveaway. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The toy table was a popular destination for dozens of migrant children who came with their families to St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Church, 5352 W. Belden Ave., on Sept. 9 for the third monthly giveaway of clothing, toys, food and other necessities.

Their eyes lit up and smiles crossed their faces as they chattered in Spanish, expressing excitement over seeing the toys.

All this was overseen by Juan Pablo Benavides, a 10-year-old parishioner of Sts. Genevieve and Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Parish, who donated many of the toys from his own collection.

He kept an eye on the children making sure they picked age-appropriate toys that would be safe for them.

Volunteers, several of whom are family members, affectionately call Juan Pablo “the boss.” He does not just run the toy table; he also helps bring in donations, which are dropped off in the mornings, and helps set up the tables where items are displayed.

His mother, Barbara Maldonado, is one of the lead organizers of the giveaway. She suggested he donate some of his toys to migrant children, and he did not hesitate, he said.

“I want to give out my toys,” Juan Pablo said, while playing with a blue yo-yo. “That way, other kids that come here who don’t have nothing, they can be happy playing with the toys.”

Juan Pablo said he loves yo-yos and has his own collection.

At the initial event, Juan Pablo gave a child a toy he had for at least five years, or half of his life, he said.

“When I gave it to him, he was happy, so I wanted to keep going and give them happiness,” said the straight-A student.

It was not hard to give his toys away, Juan Pablo said.

“I already had them for a long time, so I already have memories with them so I don’t need to have more,” he said.

Juan Pablo’s family came to Chicago a few weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. Many of the toys he donated were given to him when his family arrived here when he was 3 years old, his mother said.

He credits his family for teaching him how to share, he said.

Juan Pablo’s generous spirit likely comes from his mother and grandmother, who volunteered on month-long mission trips in their native Puerto Rico.

They also went on mission trips in Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and other Latin American countries as part of Obras Misionales Pontificias de Puerto Rico. Most of the migrants they are helping now are from Venezuela and Ecuador, so they have a first-hand knowledge of what the people endured in their home countries and what made them flee, said Maldonado and Nancy Hernandez, Juan Pablo’s grandmother, who also volunteered at the giveaway.

Juan Pablo definitely shares their mission to serve, Hernandez said.

“That’s what my grandson is doing too. He gave all his toys out,” Hernandez said with tears in her eyes. “I was the one crying. ‘Don’t give that away. I gave you that, papi.’ But he said, ‘Grandma, I want to make other kids happy.’”

She said she was happy to see her grandson donating his toys and volunteering.

“Real happy and proud of him,” she said. “What can I say? He’s been serving the church for three years as an altar server.”

Maldonado called Juan Pablo’s birth a miracle. She struggled with the birth of her daughter, who is now 18 and who doctors said would not live. Her daughter spent over a month in the hospital after she was born.

Doctors told Maldonado that she would not be able to have more children, but, almost eight years later, after feeling sick for several months she went to the doctor and they told her she was pregnant and that the child also might not survive.

She prayed to St. John Paul II for his intercession during the pregnancy and the many weeks Juan Pablo spent in the hospital after his birth.

“I told God, ‘If you sent me this kid, it was for a reason. So please show it to me on the way,’” she said with emotion in her voice and tears in her eyes. “He’s been our support. Our angel. He’s full of kindness. He’s the one who will take his food from his mouth and give it to others.”

The parish will continue the monthly giveaways for the migrants and plans celebrations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. To donate items to the giveaways, call Barbara Maldonado at 708-654-6636.


  • immigration
  • parishes

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