A Smith STEM School fourth grader surprised first grade teacher Sara Novak last month when he came down the hall, beaming, dragging a huge bag of coins.
Novak's class had partnered with another first grade class to collect loose change to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy. The coin drive, which raised $521 for Toys for Tots and Friends of Firefighters, had ended the day before 9-year-old Thomas Aisevbonaye dropped his donation off to Novak.
"He was worried that I wouldn't accept it," Novak said in an email.
Of course, she did. Curious about how much the heavy bag contained, Novak separated it from the rest when she brought it to the bank.
"I was shocked to see that all of the change added up to $132," Novak wrote. "There weren't a lot of quarters either; he had over 3,400 pennies."
The next day, Novak said, she told Thomas how much money was in the bag and asked him to talk to his family about how much of it they wanted to donate.
Without hesitation, Novak said, Thomas told her he wanted to donate it all.
"I'm very lucky to have him as a son," Thomas' mother, Theresa Aisevbonaye, said. "He has this heart of giving, trying to help out."
Aisevbonaye said that the family has a container near the door of their house where they empty their pockets. Thomas has been collecting coins since he was four, his mother said. Every once in a while, Thomas will empty the jar, bringing the coins to church to donate to people in need.
"He's not saving to buy a balloon; he's not saving to buy candy; he's saving to give to those who need it," Theresa Aisevbonaye said.
After the Newtown shootings, Thomas wanted to help. He asked around at school, and found out they were not doing anything for Sandy Hook at the time, but they were collecting for the hurricane victims, according to his mother.
"Everybody was packing in all the coins we have in the house," she said. "It was a huge bag. He felt so relieved that he was doing something."
Thomas' father, Harris, said he and Theresa have raised their four children to give to those in need as a way to serve God.
"You try to give when you can," he said.
The kids at school who gave coins from their lunch money made a bigger sacrifice, he said.
Thomas just wants to help others, his mother said.
"I'm so blessed to have him as a son," Theresa Aisevbonaye said. ""He has this big heart"