Since his fifth birthday, Matthew Monroe has shunned presents for the greater good. This year, he's asking for shoes, which he'll donate to needy families throughout Florida.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
Cynthia Petrie Monroe likes to brag about her son, Matthew, the way most parents like to brag about their children.
Matthew, 8, is articulate, smart, speaks a little french, wants to be a comedian on day and, for his fourth straight birthday, didn’t ask for a single present.
When Matthew turned 5 years old, his party guests were told to bring dog or cat food, which would be donated to local pet owners.
The next year, for his sixth birthday, he decided he wanted to help people.
“We had a shoe drive at my Sunday school,” Matthew said. “When I turned six, I decided to collect shoes, and then I’ve been doing it ever since.”
The shoes Matthew collects this year, starting at his Nov. 10 birthday party and running through Dec. 20, will be taken to Jacksonville and donated to Soles4Souls, a charity that distributes donated shoes to people in need.
As of Nov. 19, Matthew had collected more than 100 pairs — a good start, if he hopes to eclipse last year's mark of 519. A collection container will be set up Pine Trail Elementary, where Matthew goes to school, until the final day before Christmas vacation.
“I’m just amazed by him,” Cynthia Monroe said. “I don’t think anyone believes me that it was his idea. But it truly was his idea. It’s sort of the pay-it-forward thing.”
Matthew got the idea when his family lived in Atlanta, when he went to a friend’s birthday party, where toys were being collected for the Ronald McDonald House. Cynthia Monroe said her son came home and knew he wanted to do something similar.
The Monroes send out invitations to Matthew’s parties and encourage guests to “clean out their closets,” or bring new shoes.
“What do you call a hippopotamus that draws blood?”
Matthew asks, practicing his standup routine: “A hippo-phlebotomist!”
Matthew said he wants to be a comedian. He got his first taste of show business when he was 4 years old, according to his mom, when the family was on a cruise to Canada.
There was a talent show on the boat and Matthew wanted to sign up. He won and has continued to perform ever since, in his living room, as well as several school plays.
His specialty is wordplay.
“Where do dolphins go to drink wine?” Matthew said. “A sand bar.”
He learned a few phrases in French prior to visiting France with his parents — they’ve been twice. He did it because he wanted to be able to speak like the natives.
Cynthia Monroe, however, said her son can be just like other kids his age and sit in front of the TV and play video games. But she's OK with that. She still likes to brag about him.
Don't 'shoe' want to give?
Help 8-year-old Matthew Monroe collect new and lightly used shoes to donate to needy families, by dropping off at Pine Trail Elementary, 300 Airport Road. Or call Matthew's mom, Cynthia, at 678-525-3160, to arrange a drop-off or pick-up.