Within hours after Hurricane Katrina ransacked the Gulf Coast region, millions of Americans dug deep to help. And one little boy in Charlotte gave a piece of something that was very dear to him.
A week ago, Amy Tincher was cleaning out a closet at her Mountain Island Lake home and pulled out a child’s blanket that reminded her how help 10 years ago for the victims of Hurricane Katrina came in the smallest of ways.
The blanket honored her son, Jonah, then barely 4, whose feel-good story about a boy that sacrificed part of his own blankie traveled the country and caught the attention of a woman in Washington state. She sent Jonah a new blanket with a message stitched: “Jonah Tincher – The Real Hero.”
It was meant to replace Snuggles, a threadbare, gum-stained, dingy blankie that Jonah had dragged around everywhere. Its silk-eared bear was hardly recognizable.
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But two weeks after the storm wrecked the lives of millions, Jonah and his mother were listening to a Charlotte radio broadcast urging listeners to bring supplies to drop sites to help hurricane victims.
He asked his mother what a hurricane was. She patiently explained: a storm with a lot of rain and wind. She told him that many people had lost their homes and that children had lost their pets, toys and clothes.
“You think they lost their blankies?” Jonah asked. Yes, she said. “I could give them a piece of mine.”
His parents had been trying to wean their son off Snuggles. It was blue and fleecelike. Since an infant, Jonah had dragged it behind his plastic trike, in a basket when he rode on the family four-wheel all-terrain vehicle. It had juice stains, gum stuck to it, and the silk trim was nearly gone. When a friend’s dog got hold of it, Jonah came to the rescue, pulling on one corner as the dog pulled on another – tearing a strip.
So they took Snuggles and a few other items to a drop site in Gastonia. Amy cut off a 4-by-5-inch piece of the blanket and slipped it into a plastic bag with a note: “Love Jonah.”
The Observer’s story made it around the country and to Washington state.
Jonah, now a few weeks shy of 14 and a ninth-grader at Mountain Island Charter School, learned that day that help comes in all forms.
His mother said that when he sees a homeless person he wants to reach into his pocket for money to help. He volunteers at his church to feed the homeless. He gives what he can to help the needy.
“It’s my way to minister to them,” said Jonah, who plays on his school’s basketball and golf teams and takes honors courses. “I feel bad for them with all the gifts that I have. I try to help out when I can.”
By the time he and Snuggles parted ways, the blankie was barely intact. But what was left went into a hope chest and the gifted blanket into a box to mark for Jonah and his family the day he developed a generous heart.