Real festive spirit as 11-year-old Cork boy makes family’s Christmas

The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Cork city, where an 11-year-old boy from Fermoy spent most of his Christmas budget to buy gifts for a homeless woman’s children.

Real festive spirit as 11-year-old Cork boy makes family’s Christmas

The O'Donovan-Campbell family , including mum Imelda and son Isaac were out Christmas shopping in Cork at the weekend, and arranged to meet up at a landmark.

But when Imelda got to the Brown Thomas store on Patrick Street, Isaac and his dad weren't there.

Imelda struck up conversation with a young woman wrapped in a sleeping bag outside the store, and offered to buy her some food since she hadn't eaten in three days.

When Imelda returned a few minutes later, she found Isaac had arrived and beaten her to it. He had bought the young woman a burger with his own money.

Isaac asked the woman about her family and whether Santa would be visiting her three children - aged between six months and six years.

The woman told him she didn't think Santa would be able to find them this year, adding she didn't think she'd be able to provide gifts herself, since it was a struggle just to feed the family.

"Isaac had about €50 that he had saved up for Christmas shopping," his mother Imelda explained. He had already decided to create handmade gifts for his family, and use the money to help someone else - but wasn't sure who.

But after hearing the young woman's story, he made up his mind. After a quick shopping trip to the nearest toy shop, he returned with a small selection of toys for her family, and a Christmas card.

Speaking to the Neil Prendeville Show on Cork's RedFM Imelda described what followed.

"We called her, and she looked out, and I couldn't even begin to explain what happened next," she said.

"Basically, she started to cry - she sobbed, she heaved, her whole body shook. And she just reached out her hands and clasped our hands really, really, tightly - she couldn't even speak.

"We were fumbling for tissues, it was such an emotional moment. When she got her breath back, she thanked us so much - she said no one had ever done something like that for her."

And on Isaac's part, she said it was the first time he ever saw someone crying with gratitude, and it was a brand new feeling.

"I think that's a lesson he'll carry for the rest of his life ... I think it's going to be a highlight of all our Christmases," Imelda said.

"I think we got a whole lot more out of it than that lady ever could."

Like many of us, Imelda said she's a little uncomfortable with going on the radio to tell her story - but was prompted to by a close friend.

It wasn't by chance that both mother and son approached and opened up a chat with someone down on their luck. A close family friend, John Sweeney, is behind the Suspended Coffees movement - and recently told them a story about chatting to Cork's homeless.

What he took away from the experience was the importance of human connection - and the message stuck with both Isaac and his mum.

But just as her friend John's story prompted her and Isaac to act, she hopes his story might have a knock-on effect this festive season.

You can find out more about John Sweeney's Suspended Coffees movement on the group's Facebook page - or find a participating café on their map.

- Hat-tip to the Neil Prendeville show on RedFM, who first covered the story, and

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