Breanna Burklund is no stranger to charity.
Her family has been heavily involved with mission work since she was a little girl.
The Burklunds first got involved with Operation Christmas Child 12 years ago. The project is part of Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that says it “provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.”
As part of the program, the Burklunds and people across the globe pack shoe boxes with essential items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks and undershirts. They'll also include some school supplies and a toy. The boxes are then packed up and shipped across the globe to needy children in more than 130 countries. Operation Christmas Child has gifted more than 100 million shoe boxes since 1993.
This year Breanna was selected to travel to the Philippines as a Samaritan's Purse Youth. This meant that she, along with 18 other young people and four adults, got the chance to personally give shoe boxes to children. During a weeklong trip in late July, the group handed out more than 1,000 boxes at schools and churches throughout Manila and the surrounding areas.
Breanna said she didn't know what to expect because she had only ever packed boxes. But the group was met with great appreciation by the children.
“It was just really cool to be able to see how excited they were for a toothbrush or just something like that,” she said.
One school the volunteers visited had a marching band waiting when they arrived. The little girls at the school had spent six months working on a dance for them.
Unfortunately, the group did not have shoe boxes to give to all of the children. Burklund said it was hard, because often the schools had thousands of children, but the group had only enough boxes to give to some of them.
“When people this year are going to pack boxes, thinking about all the kids who didn't get them makes me more motivated to do triple what I've already done,” Breanna said.
Breanna is back home now but already has plans for more service trips. She wants to help Operation Christmas Child next year by working in one of its processing centers. And she's hoping that next summer she'll be able to volunteer in a Chinese orphanage started by Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth.
Breanna said she wants to continue doing mission work at least through her college years. Her mother, Pamela, said whatever Breanna's future career is, it's going to be child-centric somehow.
“Kids are her passion,” Pamela Burklund said.