Tyler Wills is like most 7-year-olds. He loves to climb trees, kick rocks and play outside.
One thing that sets Wills apart from others is his passion or, as he puts it, his calling to help others.
On Saturday, Wills, with the help of his parents and others, will hold a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The event, taking place under the name Tyler’s Calling, kicks off at 11 a.m. at the Neosho Civic Center, 109 W. Main St. It will include live music, food, a bake sale and silent auction, among other things.
This is the latest in a string of fundraisers that Wills, a second grader at Westview Elementary School in rural Newton County, has organized.
The motto for Tyler’s Calling is “Just a kid following Christ.”
“I want to help people,” Wills said, explaining his organization’s name. “My name is Tyler, and God’s calling me to help people.”
How it began
Wills took part in his first fundraiser at age 4 when his preschool teachers hosted a “trike-a-thon” for St. Jude’s.
Wills raised $43 for the event. It sparked something inside of him. His mother, Trina, said her son began looking for ways to help others.
A chance viewing of a photo on Facebook with his mother led to Wills’ second effort — the purchase of a baby doll for Jaelee Munson, a Northeast Oklahoma girl battling an aggressive form of neuroblastoma.
“He told me God said [Jaelee] needed a smile on her face, and a baby doll from Walmart would do it,” his mother said.
So with his parents help, Wills baked and sold cookies to purchase the doll. He exceeded his goal by $165, which went to help Munson’s family.
A desire to help families with sick babies led Wills to raise $2,300 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Four States. A brick recognizing Tyler’s Calling and the gift is now part of the Ronald McDonald House walkway in Joplin.
Throughout the years, Wills has worked on other projects, ranging from raising funds to help send Filipino students to high school through his grandparents’ ministry, Wade Out Deeper, to hosting a pancake fundraiser for a Galena, Kansas, family with a sick child.
Wills' desire to help others led his parents to form Tyler’s Calling. The name comes from a statement Wills made to his mother.
“He told me he wanted to be in ministry, that he was called by God to help the sick and the poor,” Trina Wills said. “He said, one day I want to take over Nanny and Poppy’s ministry in the Philippines.”
The organization is still in its infancy. Trina Wills hopes to secure a 501(c)(3) status in the near future.
Until now, the fundraisers have all gone toward a specific project. This week, the Children’s Ministry at Racine Christian Church picked Tyler’s Calling as the vacation Bible school mission project. Half of the funds raised in the daily offerings will go toward Saturday’s events. The other funds will go to help Wills secure the nonprofit status and for future projects.
More about Wills
Trina Wills smiles as she talks about her son and how he lives out his faith every day.
“It’s absolutely incredible to watch this unfold,” Trina Wills said. “He’s overcome so much in his little life. To see a passion like this at such a young age, brings tears to my eyes.”
Trina Wills said while her son has battled a few health issues of his own, including being diagnosed with ADHD, it hasn’t kept him from helping others.
“He’s a 7-year-old boy full of energy,” Trina Wills said. “But when he puts his mind to something, it’s amazing how he wants to help another kid he may have never met, more than anything else.”
She said his idea of helping sick babies and their parents was extra-special, since he spent the first few days after his birth at the neonatal intensive care unit with Freeman Health System.
Trina Wills said her son’s health issues may have given him an extra dose of compassion.
“He’s so in tuned to God, it’s just amazing,” Trina Wills said. “He pours himself into all of it. Helping people is all he talks about at home.”
She jokes the family has been able to help Wills fill all of his wishes, except one. He wants a Tyler’s Calling parade, with funding benefiting a special project.
“Everyone thinks, oh, kids who are 5 or 7 can’t do anything great,” Trina Wills said. “But God calls the children. I tell him it’s OK to follow your dreams and your passion. I tell him to go for it, and I support him.”
The event kicks off at 11 a.m., with a hot dog feed, silent auction and bake sale. At 2 p.m., a slate of musicians — including three who are under the age of 18 — will take the stage.
The concert lineup: 2 p.m., Ashlynn’s Grey; 3 p.m., Alyssa Galen; 4 p.m., Brower Family; 5:30 p.m., Dillon Leggett, and 7 p.m., Brandon Dorris.
A kids area at the event will feature coloring pages, free ice pops and other items.
Wills' reason for picking St. Jude’s as the event recipient is simple.
“I want [those kids] to have another birthday,” Wills said. “I want to help. I’ve been called to be God’s hands and feet.”
For more information about Tyler’s Calling and Saturday’s event, visit the organization’s Facebook page by searching “Tyler’s Calling.”