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Teens work together to buy new sneakers for classmate with special needs

When they saw a friend wearing shoes that were too small, a group of high school students banded together to give the teen some new ones.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

It's a story of Christmas kindness, with a sweet twist.

When students at a Texas high school noticed a friend in need, they stepped up — pooling their money to purchase him a special Christmas gift.

J.R. Gilbert is a junior at the school, and he caught his friends' attention recently when he told them his shoes were two-and-a-half sizes too small for his size 13 foot.

According to NBC News, J.R. is a special needs student who has hydrocephaly and ADHD. When Salvador Solis, a classmate of J.R.'s, heard that his friend was wearing shoes that did not fit, he banded together with his fellow classmates to raise nearly $180 — enough to purchase two pair of Nike tennis shoes for their friend.

The students presented J.R. with the shoes on Dec. 15, and a video of the exchange has since gone viral, garnering more than five million views.

"What! You got me my favorite kind, too," J.R. exclaims as he opens the gifts. "Green — my favorite color!"

The students who gathered to present J.R. with the shoes can be heard cheering as he opens each package.

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Maury Vasquez is the public information officer for the Somerset Independent School District. Vasquez said of the students at the school, located outside of San Antonio, over 90 percent are considered low-income.

"These are some fine young men from humble families who found a way to pool some cash together and make a Christmas that their friend J.R. will never forget," Vasquez told TODAY in an email. "As the video has gone viral, these young men have accidentally reminded the millions who have seen the clip exactly what the spirit of Christmas is all about."

After posting the video, the school learned that J.R. does have shoes that fit him. But it's the message behind the too-small boots that makes the story sweeter.

"We found out from JR's family that he does have shoes that fit him, but he refuses to stop wearing the boots of his beloved grandfather, since his grandfather can no longer wear them," the school wrote in a Facebook post. "But that's how all this Christmas season of giving good cheer got started!!"