Michael “Pay It Forward” Martinez just received a letter from the White House recognizing him for his generosity this holiday season, and for the support he is showing our nation’s troops.
11 News told you about Martinez in December when he decided to give up his Christmas presents in order to send thousands of holiday cards to military troops, law enforcement, emergency and medical responders, leaders at the local, state, and federal levels, plus more.
Martinez has been overwhelmingly recognized for his generosity by the Pueblo and Colorado Springs communities. But he says this one takes the cake.
In a manila envelope he pulled out a letter of appreciation from the White House. Complete with the seal at the top, and the First Lady Michelle Obama’s signature at the bottom.
"I almost fainted and I felt like I was gonna have a heart attack. Because I was that excited. My heart was pounding, like bum bum bum bum. My mom was gonna scream and I felt like I was gonna scream. It was crazy,” said Michael Martinez.
Michael says that when he realized what it was he was caught between being speechless and screaming in excitement.
“I thought I was gonna jump off the wall, like I just swallowed 100 pounds of sugar,” said Martinez.
The generous giver said he never expected anything in return for his efforts, but is grateful to have such a valued item.
“Only people who are famous or close to Obama get something like this. Somebody who has done something really big, not an every day person like me,” said Martinez.
The 12-year-old is just happy to see that making the cards has indeed made a difference.
Michael has been making cards since September. He says it’s his way of saying thanks to those who protect our country at all levels. He adopted the special holiday tradition a few years ago, but wanted to make a big push this year.
Michael was seriously injured in a dog attack in 2007. He was at Petsmart buying a fish when he was bit in the face by a dog. He had several surgeries. In that moment he saw what it meant to give.
“Nobody cared expect an off-duty paramedic and his wife,” said Martinez.
After a year of surgeries, he decided he wanted to “Pay It Forward."
“So people don’t have to feel the pain I felt,” said Martinez.
Michael has sent around 2,000 cards not only to soldiers who are sacrificing overseas, but also the ones at home. He visited several V.A. hospitals and nursing homes. A lady at one of the VA hospitals said, “He has a heart of a 50-year-old gentleman who has been through wars.”
He has also received numerous certificates, coins, patches and gifts for his generous efforts.
A proclamation even made December 5, 2011 “Michael Martinez Day.” Artist Michael Garmin even got wind of Martinez’ efforts and presented him with an autographed sculpture of the pre-teen at his gallery.
Michael’s mother, Anna Lynn Martinez, couldn’t be more proud of her son. He keeps pictures of all the people he has met with and organized a list of each place they have visited and given cards to. Many of them he hand-delivered, while others he sent to troops in Afghanistan.
Anna Lynn says her son would rather send these cards then receive gifts for himself.
"I had mentioned when he got to about 2,000 cards: ‘You know, you’re gonna have to choose, Christmas presents or cards,” she said. “He looked at them and then he said, ‘It’s better to give than to receive.’”
And believe it or not, he is not taking a break. Michael plans on making at least a thousand more cards for soldiers this month. He was asked specifically to make some for Army soldiers in Afghanistan, many from Ft. Carson. He was asked by a Colorado Springs recruiting office.
He also is going to make some special Valentine’s Day cards for children at the Ronald McDonald house in Colorado Springs.
And he hopes to continue “Paying It Forward” all year long.