Last month, Stacy Vanhook and her son, Bryce, slowly rolled through neighborhoods in Concord, scouting for houses with sacks left on the front porch for them.
When they caught sight of one, the sandy-haired boy would pull open the car door, dash to the porch and fetch it with the typical energy of a 10-year-old.
Word had spread in neighborhoods like Carriage Downs, Gable Oaks and The Woodlands that Bryce, a fifth-grader at Furr Elementary School, was collecting reading materials for a huge book sale to benefit one of his favorite charities: Grin Kids, an organization that sends terminally ill and chronically disabled kids to Disney World for free.
The community support had been enormous, and trips to more than 150 houses had brought in more than a thousand books. When the car was stuffed with enough books to rise past the windows, mother and son would go home, unload and return to where they left off.
Bryce has always had a soft spot for kids, Vanhook said. When choosing charities and volunteer work, he usually picks child-related ones. Last fall he helped small children pick pumpkins at a nearby orphanage. "He has a passion for these kid things," she said.
So when he was given an assignment for his AIG, academically or intellectually gifted, class to find a way to give back to the community, he naturally chose a project that would benefit little ones. "I wanted to do something for kids," Bryce said.
He chose Grin Kids, run by Charlotte radio morning-show personalities Ace & TJ.
The charity has been taking kids, their families and even their health-care workers to Disney World for the last 10 years - chartering a 727 and providing tickets, meals, a hotel and Disney Dollars.
To date, Grin Kids has taken more than 200 kids; one was Bryce's cousin Whitley.
Whitley suffered from a degenerative brain disorder and took the trip before she passed away in 2006 at age 13.
Bryce was 6 years old then and doesn't remember her well but knows she was a cherished member of the family.
He would keep her in mind while sorting books by topic in his dining room, which became a makeshift library until the book sale March 27. For weeks, the family ate dinner surrounded by stacks of suspense and romance novels, piles of cookbooks and early readers.
The day of the sale, drivers passing the parking lot at the corner of Weddington and Pitts School roads saw table after table of books and stopped in for a peek. Many bought books with bills larger than needed and had Bryce keep the change. Some wrote checks directly to Grin Kids. One woman gave $100. In total, Bryce has raised $1,552.
One of the people who stopped in was Whitley's father, Zane, who thanked Bryce for the fundraiser.
"He told me that he was really proud," said Bryce, smiling.