Local boy collects food donations in lieu of presents

There are many things a boy could ask for on his eighth birthday.
Store shelves these days are packed with the newest bigger, better toys and gaming systems. Kids are tempted by commercials that feature toys and games that do amazing things – not to mention the appeal to ask their parents for the latest electronic equipment. The age that children request their own computer and cell phone is getting younger every year.
But this year, M.J. Ferguson was not interested in all that. When he and his mother were planning his birthday party, he told her he wanted people to give food to those who do not have any instead of buying him presents.
His mother, Jana, wanted to make sure he understood what he was requesting. “I kept asking him if he was sure, because I didn't want him to get to his birthday and be disappointed,” she said.
Once she felt confident that this was what M.J. really wanted to do, she told him it was a great idea. They decided to collect donations for local food ministries in lieu of gifts.
“Next, I told him we needed a goal,” Ferguson said. She suggested 100 items, but M.J said this was not enough.
The two set out to collect 512 items for the cause. They accepted donations before, during and after the birthday party Friday and plan to deliver the food to First Southern Baptist Church in Bryant and the Vine and the Branches ministry founded by Saline County Chaplain Tamra Gore.
At the party, after the cake was cut, M.J. and his mother thanked everyone for the 1,100 items that had been donated.
“Y'all are true best friends,” he said to those who attended his party. “Y'all are the best friends ever.”