Boy, 7, Gets Dream Trip After Using Money Saved for Disney Vacation to Feed Hurricane Evacuees
Jermaine Bell will get to go to Disney World after all!
Jermaine Bell kissed his dreams of exploring Walt Disney World goodbye after saving for about a year to visit the theme park. Instead of taking the dream vacation, the 7-year-old used the roughly $500 to provide Hurricane Dorian evacuees in South Carolina with food and water. Now, the little boy will get to go to Disney after all.
“We were contacted by a team from Disney … and they were able to surprise him for his birthday with Mickey and a cake and some gifts,” Bell’s mother, 31-year-old Lauren Creech, tells PEOPLE. “We’re coordinating with them to go [to Disney] later this month!”
Disney officials learned of Bell’s good deed and went to the family’s Jacksonville, Florida, home on Sunday and broke the news that they were sending Bell and his family on a VIP getaway at Disney’s vacation kingdom.
“His jaw just dropped open and he was smiling from ear to ear,” Creech says of Bell’s reaction to the news. “He was really happy. He was very grateful for what they did. They gave him an animated Simba toy and he was just like, ‘This is my favorite Simba toy ever. I think I’m gonna sleep with it, it’s gonna go everywhere I go.’ ”
It all began earlier this month while Bell was visiting his grandparents in Allendale. Gov. Henry McMaster ordered the coast to evacuate as the storm approached. With that, evacuees began heading inland, and Bell told his grandmother he wanted to help.
With the help of his grandparents and a few local residents, Bell set up a tent along Highway 125, where he served hot dogs, water and chips to more than 100 evacuees.
“He is really a selfless, selfless child and it’s overwhelming but it’s not shocking because to know him, this is exactly who he is,” Creech tells PEOPLE. “I have a budding philanthropist! I just really want him to know that I am extremely proud of him. I don’t even think I could put it into words.”
VIDEO: Rihanna Pledges to Help Victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas: ‘It Truly Breaks My Heart’
Bell’s act of kindness has gone viral, with news outlets across the country highlighting the good deed. Creech says Bell has been “embracing” all the attention, though he never set out to go viral.
“The people that are traveling to go to places, I wanted them to have some food to eat, so they can enjoy the ride to the place that they’re going to stay at,” Bell told WJBF. “I wanted to be generous and live to give.”
Creech says Bell wants to continue helping those impacted by the storm, specifically children in the Bahamas — where at least 45 people have died but thousands are missing, according to The Weather Channel.
“He wants to hopefully be able to donate some proceeds or purchase care packages,” Creech says of Bell. “I’m hoping that this is just the beginning for him.”
Shortly before Sunday’s surprise, comedian and actor David Spade gave $10,000 for Bell and his family to go to Disney
“[Spade] was moved by this boy’s decision to put his own wants aside to help others in crisis and thought it was super admirable,” a rep for the star tells PEOPLE, noting that Spade gave the family $10,000 for Bell and nine family members to get tickets and fly to the popular theme park.
“[Spade] read the story in the paper and was so touched by it and decide to reach out to him and his family and reward him for doing something so nice.”