A young Guatemalan girl dressed in pink holds up her brand-new doll.
Dulce Maria was among the first children to receive a Box of Joy in the early years of the ministry.

One Decade of Box of Joy®

Cross Catholic Outreach is proud to be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its Box of Joy outreach — and with ongoing support from U.S. Catholics, we intend to continue this wonderful outreach for many decades to come! To understand the importance of this work of mercy, consider how Christmas is celebrated in other parts of the world.

In Catholic homes across the United States, children go to bed on Christmas Eve awaiting the arrival of a morning filled with excitement and gifts. Many are so eager to celebrate Jesus’ birth that they can hardly sleep!

Sadly, most children in developing countries have a very different experience. In places such as Haiti, Guatemala, and Malawi, many children have never received a Christmas gift, and few can imagine escaping the hardships of poverty they’ve known their whole lives.

That’s why the Box of Joy team has been working hard to make the unimaginable possible! And — thanks to compassionate Catholics around the U.S. — those efforts have been fruitful. Since Cross Catholic Outreach launched the Box of Joy ministry in 2014, U.S. Catholic parishes, schools, groups, families, and individuals have united to bless children around the world with 646,163 Box of Joy gifts. The impact of these gifts over the past decade has been deeply felt in communities across Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Dulce Maria’s story is a shining example of this.

A Guatemalan family of four stands outside their sturdy new home.
Dulce Maria’s first interaction with Cross Catholic Outreach was as a 6-year-old receiving a Box of Joy. Today she is a teenager and her family recently received a new home!

Dulce Maria’s Story: A Legacy of Joy

In 2015, our CEO, Jim Cavnar, personally gave a Box of Joy to little Dulce Maria in Guatemala. As she held up her very own new doll with delight, others on hand for the occasion captured images of her bright, shining eyes and smile. Since then, thousands of people in the U.S. have seen Dulce Maria’s photos and videos, and she has inspired many to participate in Box of Joy events to help other children like her.

On a recent visit to Guatemala, Jim, along with our president, Michele Sagarino, and other Cross Catholic Outreach staff, visited Dulce Maria in her village. Her family members smiled, knowing that the footage of Dulce Maria’s joy had inspired thousands of U.S. Catholics to give Christmas gifts to other children in need. Now a young teen, Dulce Maria has a new dream: She wants to continue her education and become a lawyer one day.

Dulce Maria’s journey with Cross Catholic Outreach may have started with a Box of Joy, but it didn’t end there. In 2021, Cross Catholic Outreach blessed Dulce Maria and her family with a secure new home that has sturdy walls and a roof to keep them safe and dry.

American Catholic school students sit around Box of Joy gifts arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree.
Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans, Louisiana, has made Box of Joy an annual event in its school calendar — and we pray your school community will consider doing the same.

How You Can Help

Box of Joy is an instrument of mercy God uses to bless young lives — but its continuation and expansion are only possible if U.S. Catholic parishes, schools, groups and families are willing to share their resources and engage their communities in this gift-giving outreach.

The shoebox-sized gifts that participating individuals, groups and parishes pack are sources of immense joy for the children who receive them. On a Box of Joy distribution day, the whole village gathers to celebrate with songs, dances and prayers of thanksgiving. And when the gifts are opened, the children are delighted to see the boxes filled with items selected for them by caring Catholics in the U.S.

As an example, a Box of Joy may include:

  • Toys, such as soccer balls, dolls, mini puzzles and jump ropes.
  • Clothing, such as socks, T-shirts and hats, to protect them from the harsh sun.
  • School supplies, such as pencils and notepads, to help children achieve their big dreams.

Once the gifts that U.S. Catholics fill reach Cross Catholic Outreach’s screening center, volunteers add a rosary and The Story of Jesus to each gift box. Altogether, the contents are fun, practical and encouraging.

We pray you will join compassionate Catholics across the United States who have already made Box of Joy an annual service project. Working together, we can reach our goal of sending Box of Joy gifts to even more children during the next Christmas season.

Box of Joy is a registered trademark of Cross Catholic Outreach.

Bless More Lives Through Box of Joy