How 1 dad inspired teenagers to make 33,000 burritos for the homeless

How 1 dad inspired teenagers to make 33,000 burritos for the homeless

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz once said, “Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” That couldn’t be truer for a group of 15-year-olds from the San Diego area.

It all started during the 2010 holiday season when Alec Johnson, then 12, gave his parents a fairly lavish Christmas wish list. “I asked for an iPad, iPhone and MacBook.” He says his dad was surprised and said, “I would never buy that for you because all the other people on the street could never get that.”

“I didn’t want to raise a spoiled child,” says Alec’s dad, Michael. “So we decided to take some steps to give him a little bit more of an education about the realities of life.”

It was then that Michael and his wife Mehrnaz, came up with an idea to help by feeding the homeless. On a December Sunday, in their small kitchen, the Johnsons and Alec’s friend Luke made 54 egg and cheese burritos and went to downtown San Diego to feed the homeless. Initially, Alec wasn’t completely sold on the idea. “I first thought it was actually a punishment to teach me a lesson, but it turned out to be fun.”

That was more than 130 Sundays and over 33,000 burritos ago. Every Sunday for the past two-and-a-half years, they have been a downtown staple. The group expanded from two boys to seven, and they formed the non-profit Hunger2Help, Kids Taking Action. Each Sunday, the boys, fondly known as the “Burrito Boyz,” and a group of regular volunteers made up of kids and adults, start their morning at dawn to crack, scramble and wrap 450 egg burritos, then head downtown where hundreds of men and women line up waiting.

”They give out clothes, they give out the water. They give you a hot meal,” says Jeff, waiting in line. “The whole morale of the day is this awesome feeling knowing somebody does care.”

“The boys realized they are making a difference,” says Michael. “It wasn’t their original intention, but I think now they are really starting to get the fact they’re significant and they’re making a big impact on a large problem that we have in our city.“

And the men and women on the street are making an impact on the kids as well. “I learned that they’re not all drunks, alcoholics [and] criminals -- that they’re just people trying to get back up on their feet,” says Luke.

“Anything can happen if you take the fist step. I’m shocked at what’s happened with this little project,” says Michael. “Now there’s a major impact, and it just took us doing something, taking action, and I think if you do that with anything in life, just take that first step, it’s amazing what can happen, what the opportunities are ahead of you.”

Know of someone who is doing inspiring or innovative things to help others? Email us at or send a tweet at #theupbeat and #yahoonews.

Produced by Deborah Grau. Edited by Amina Megalli. Directors of photography: John Matysiak and Jaxon Woods. Audio: Andre Rivera. Associate producer: Meghan Moore. Sound mixed by J.J. Brown. Production supervisor: Michael Manas. Executive producers: Russ Torres and Charity Elder for Yahoo! Studios.