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Getting a jump on his career

Jackson Bell

It’s not unusual for boys in elementary school to tell their family

and friends they want to be firefighters when they grow up. Mathew

Smith, 9, is no different, but he’s already taking action to be of


service to those affected by the Southern California wildfires.

After learning about the homes being destroyed by the fires this

week, Mathew decided that he wanted to do something to help.

“I was watching the fires on TV and I asked my mom where people


lost homes,” said Mathew, who said he wants to be a Burbank

firefighter when he grows up. “She told me and I got the idea to help

them out by giving them some donations.”

Mathew’s mother, Leslie, said she saw him making fliers on their

home computer that evening for a donation drive. Proud of their son’s

initiative, she and Mathew’s father, Ken, decided to contribute by

overseeing the project.

Smith said she and her son convinced students and teachers at most


Burbank elementary schools to donate money and other items through

Nov. 19. Every day, the mother-and-son team will drive to the

schools, pick up the items and give them to the Red Cross and the

Salvation Army.

"[School administrators] were thrilled to death because no one

thought about this,” Leslie Smith said. “It made me feel good because

they totally welcomed it.”

Officials at the Burbank Unified School District said no other


donation efforts were taking place at local elementary schools.

Paula Willebrands, Mathew’s principal at Stevenson Elementary

School, said she is proud of him for thinking of the well-being of

those who lost their possessions.

Plus, Willebrands said the drive is helping to calm her students.

“Children are concerned and scared about what is happening,” she

said. “This is a good way for children to feel like they have made a

difference in the community for people who are suffering.”

Mathew is no stranger to altruistic actions. After the Sept. 11,

2001, terrorist attacks, Smith said he raised and sent money to an

elementary school close to ground zero.