Alexander Fultz was just five years old back in 2010 when his little brother was hospitalized for a rare illness.
He and his family spent a lot of time roaming the halls of Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. Alexander remembers being upset thinking about all the time the kids spent away from home.
“I was wondering how the children in the hospital got to go home for Christmas,” the now 11 year old from Pineville, North Carolina recalls.
When his parents told him the really sick kids didn’t get to leave over the holiday Alexander tells PEOPLE: “I convinced my parents to buy me five or six toys to drop off at the hospital.”
Dad Troy remembers: “As soon as we got home from the hospital he ran up to his room and he created a bank from a box and some art supplies we had.”
Alexander explains: “I wanted to remind everyone to put spare change in it when we passed by it and then we started bringing it to our events.”
Six years later they still bring that same box to events, even though they’ve long since outgrown it. In 2o15, the family officially formed Alexander’s Toy Trunk www.alexanderstoytrunk.com ,a non-profit that collects toys and money they use to buy additional items. They’ve raised around six-thousand dollars since the day Alexander first asked to shop for others.
“It’s fun and I know I’m making a difference in the community,” Alexander says. “I didn’t expect it to be this big. I just expected to give a bunch of toys to the hospital every year.”
Carrie Keuten, the event director at Levine Children’s Hospital, heard about what the Fultz family was doing and knew she had just the right mission for Alexander. She asked him to help the hospital’s youngest patients.
“He was so sincere from the very first time I met him,” she tells PEOPLE. “He fascinates me. It’s very difficult for us to get things for the babies in the NICU (the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and it’s heartbreaking for those parents at Christmas time.”
From that point on, the Fultz’s started focusing their Christmas shopping trips to make sure that every baby in the NICU got clothing and toys.
“I think one of my favorite days of the year is the day before Christmas when we drop everything off and the light I see in his eyes,” says Alexander’s mom, Kristie, 39, a cardiac sonographer. “I can’t put it into words. He doesn’t get to meet the patients or the families – and yet he has this drive to do it for people he doesn’t get to meet. I’m just in awe of him. He makes us so proud.”
This year people in at least three other states are also helping collect and deliver toys.
Troy gets choked up talking about the incredible impact his son is having.
“Sometimes it’s hard to talk about,” says Troy, 42, a senior vice president at Bank of America. “It’s great and the biggest thing for me is to watch how it inspires others. We hear stories from other kids where they’ve started to ask for toys to be brought to their birthday parties to be donated to give to the hospital.”
Even little Benjamin, now seven, helps play Santa.
Every year for his birthday instead of asking for presents, he asks friends to bring specific items that the hospital says kids are asking for.
“Last year I collected UNO cards for my birthday and we donated them to the hospital,” he says.
This Christmas is bigger than ever.
The family estimates they may have three times as many gifts to bring to the hospital than last year and Alexander says it doesn’t bother him that he never gets to meet the recipients.
“I’m ok if I don’t because I don’t get to meet Santa.”
And he says playing Santa is way better than even when Santa visits his own home.
“I like giving to other people because I know I’m helping.”