by Melanie Preis
Chris “CJ” Matthews shows the world that kindness and good works have no age minimum. This Atlanta teen began his philanthropic project, Blankies 4 My Buddies at the tender age of 5 and has been pursuing his passion for helping children ever since.
The inspiration to do good started eight years ago after CJ and his family experienced a pregnancy loss. CJ struggled to cope with the tragedy and comfort eventually came in the form of helping others. CJ says, “My mom asked me when I was five, ‘If you could help kids, what would you do?’ I told her that I never wanted for kids to feel lonely or sad like I did. She gave me ideas of things that would give immediate comfort to a kid, and I picked blankets.” Blankies 4 My Buddies is a way to help children dealing with traumatic situations.
“If someone is scared in bed at night, what do they do? Cover their head with their blankets,” says CJ. “If you’re cold, you cover yourself up. A blanket gives a sense of security, like a hug, so [Blankies 4 My Buddies] was a logical solution.”
And through it all, CJ pushed to keep Blankies 4 My Buddies running during COVID-19. He created “comfort bags” as part of an emergency effort to stimulate generosity for those affected by the pandemic. These kid-focused bags hold hygiene products, snacks, journals, books, toys, his trademark blankets and a COVID-19 time capsule packet to bring comfort to kids sheltering in place. CJ and his family donated them to local shelters and foster kids, as well as delivering some to their local councilman to hand out.
“The past year has been tough,” says CJ. “Of course, a blanket can’t protect you from your fears or help you overcome hard times. It is merely a symbol of comfort, of love, of security.”
CJ, an eighth-grader at KIPP South Fulton Academy, lives with his parents and 4-year-old brother, Kollin. As a family, they have started to develop additional programs beyond blanket donations as a way to increase their charitable reach and continue the work of community betterment.
“I would tell other kids who want to make a difference to find something that they really care about and just do it,” he says. “No act of kindness is too small.”
If you would like to help CJ continue on his mission of helping others, visit his site at blankies4mybuddies.org
Photography by Kristen Wright-Matthews.