DENISON, Texas (KTEN) - Every January 13, Denison four-sport athlete Joshua Kurtenbach celebrates his birthday by kicking off his 4-H book and stuffed animal drive.

"It's a drive where I get books and stuffed animals and return them to give them to foster children and just children in need," said Kurtenbach.

2023 marks the eighth straight year the event goes on, sending books to Grayson County foster children and the Denison library while stuffed animals primarily go to the Denison Police Department.

"He started it in Grand Prairie, Texas, where he was going to school, but when he moved here to Denison.... It has been overwhelming to see the support and the push behind what he's doing, said Grayson County 4H leader Tamra McGaughy."

For Kurtenbach, this drive is personal, having family that has gone through the foster care system.

"I have two cousins that were recently foster children, they both live in Oklahoma," said Kurtenbach. "They don't have what a lot of kids have so having them feel welcomed, having them feel what they deserve is what drives me to do it."

"He knows that I'm also a foster mom," said McGaughy. "They picked the child welfare board as to where to donate the books to. Our family was actually a recipient of some of the books that he collected, so it's all come back around."

You need quite a few hands to pick up thousands of donated books and stuffed animals, which led to the making of the 'K-9 crew,' a leadership group created by Kurtenbach for Denison ISD students as young as kindergarten and as old as 12th grade giving kids experience around leadership and community service.

"I wanted my kids to be a part of it to be around Josh," said K-9 volunteer Josh Means. "He's a great kid, he gives back a lot, his family when they came to Denison, they jumped in with both feet."

2023 donations have already surpassed any of the previous drives, but Kurtenbach and the K-9 crew are hoping to reach the 10,000 book mark
to go along with 3,000 stuffed animals.

As he continues his football career at Mary-Hardin Baylor, do not be surprised if this drive shows up at a third location in 2024. Kurtenbach plans on making sure more kids get those special gifts.

The book and stuffed animal drive runs through February 28, with multiple drop-off locations at downtown Denison businesses, such as Monsters on Main, Dance Explosion and Simmons Bank.