Twenty-year-old Cody Wheeler is doing his part to make the homeless feel a little bit warmer this holiday season.
“We were walking out of church one day and he said, ‘Mom I don’t want anyone to be cold on Christmas,’” said his mother Christy Ramirez-Wheeler. “He wouldn’t let it go. So we sat down a week later, created a flyer and posted it on Facebook.”
Christy and Cody created the Cody’s Coats for the Cold clothing drive, hoping to get at least 50 coats donated to give to the homeless populations of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles. After the post was shared by the family’s friends and workplaces, Cody received over 500 coats, parts, scarves and gloves in about three weeks.
According to Christy, charity work and volunteering are normal for the family and that service is something that Cody has “always had in his head.”
“We always used to go and help feed the homeless and we do family projects to package sets of warm clothing then distribute them to people on Skid Row,” she said. “We had to stop doing that because life got crazy, and I don’t know what sparked this in him but that’s where he wanted to help give clothing.”
Over the weekend, Cody distributed coats to Bridge to Home in Santa Clarita and the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row. Christy said that it was the family often volunteered at Bridge to Home and that it was important to also give back to the local community.
“It’s important to me that my kids don’t grow up to be entitled and that they know that there is another life out there,” she said. “Santa Clarita is a bit of a bubble that shelters people from that, so it’s important to show them that life here is not what it’s like everywhere else.”
Christy said that Cody, who has autism, was proud of his accomplishment but a little “shell-shocked.” She added that Cody’s success illustrates that autistic people are the same as those without autism.
“The size of Cody’s developmental delay does not impact the size of his heart and that’s what we love the most about him,” Christy said. “Autism affects people’s ability to socialize, but not their kindness and who they are as people.”
Cody and Christy said they would like to continue the clothing drive next year, but plan on reducing the amount of donations they are able to accept. She added that interacting with the recipients of the coats was an eye opening and humbling experience for her and her family.
“They’re not always down and out people, and anyone could become homeless,” Christy said. “I’m so proud that my son knows that and is willing to help out. After we donated all he could say is, ‘They won’t be cold on Christmas.’”