DALLAS — Childhood hobbies often come and go. Kids love a sport and then suddenly don’t.
Piano lessons are the greatest. Then out of the blue they aren’t.
Art supplies, musical instruments and athletics gear are shoved into a closet. Forgotten about until they’re donated or sold.
It happens in almost every family – the thing a child loves at 7 years old is no longer their passion at 17.
Charlie Borowczak is an exception.
He vividly remembers Christmas when he was six.
His parents adopted an angel off the Salvation Army angel tree.
“He said, ‘Wait, why won’t their parents buy [Christmas presents] for them?’” Charlie’s mom, Toni Scalise, recalls.
“And I said, ‘Because there’s some kids that can’t afford it.’ And I remember his face. It was like he could not even grasp that.”
Charlie wanted to adopt his own angel, but Toni told him he had to earn his own money to do it.
So, he did a few extra chores and spent his allowance on gifts for two angels.
“I woke up on Christmas morning and it just kind of hit me,” Charlie remembers. “I was hoping those two angels liked what I got them.”
A year later, he did more chores, got a few family members to donate to him, and he adopted three angels.
The tradition never stopped. All the work Charlie has put into Charlie's Angels is documented in a YouTube video.
He now spends every summer doing odd jobs for anyone who will hire him.
“I wash a lot of cars, mow a lot of lawns, do gutter work and yard work,” he said.
All the money he makes goes to Charlie’s Angels.
He’s also developed a network of donors and launched a GoFundMe account that classmates, friends and strangers donate to and share.
He started 2021’s fundraising efforts with a goal of $50,000 so he could adopt 500 angels.
He ended up raising $70,000.
He gave that money to volunteers who did the shopping to fulfill Christmas wishes for 700 Texas kids.
“It’s the same six-year-old’s heart,” Toni said, wiping away tears as she helped her son unload a U-Haul full of gifts at a Salvation Army warehouse..
An assembly line made up of Charlie, his parents, and volunteers emptied the trailer, building a mountain of gifts.
“This is who he is,” Toni said.
After the gifts were unloaded, Charlie took pictures with volunteers and Major Bethany Hawks, commander of the Salvation Army of North Texas.
Over the course of 11 years, Charlie has bought Christmas gifts for 1,130 Salvation Army angels.
“I have to say, from a child who received gifts from the angel tree as a child, I just want to thank you,” Hawks told Charlie.
Hawks knows of at least two Christmases when the Salvation Army gave her family Christmas.
Charlie said stories like that remind him the work he does is real and needed.
“As I get older and my life experiences increase, I start to see the widespread need in our community,” he said. “And my drive and ability to help other people grows every year.”
The last few years have tested Charlie’s resilience.
In 2019, a tornado damaged his home.
Then 2020 brought COVID.
That year Charlie lost his grandfather - who had been a huge Charlie’s Angels backer, and a classmate died from suicide. Charlie also broke his leg.
Still, he adopted 185 angels.
2021 felt like a fresh start, so he set his sights on a lofty $50,000 goal, right before another tragedy hit.
A woman he considered a second grandmother passed away.
“She was my biggest supporter. I can still hear her voice in my head telling me to keep going and telling me, ‘Good job,’ all along the way,” he said.
He dedicated this year’s efforts to Shannon Rider, feeling like he had his own angel watching over him.
Charlie will go off to college next year, so he had planned to press pause on Charlie’s Angels.
But now he’s not so sure.
“With the potential this has and the momentum behind it, it would be a disservice to stop now. It’s just not an option,” Charlie said.
Before opening presents on Christmas Day, Charlie always makes his family pause and picture their angels opening their gifts.
Charlie admits he usually cries on Christmas morning.
And that’s when Toni can still see that little six-year-old boy inside a 17-year-old’s body.
“I think that’s what is the most touching about it is – he’s never lost that spirit,” she said.
After unloading 700 presents from the U-Haul, Charlie sat on the tailgate and let out a deep sigh.
“I’m tired,” he told his dad, Brian.
His mother grabbed him in a huge hug.
Tears began flowing from both of them.
“These kids are so lucky to have you,” she told her son.