**Originally posted on: Detroit Free Press

Some people look at homeless people and question their life choices. When Caleb White sees them, he only wants to help.

And that’s what this 13-year-old Commerce Township teen has done since he was 6 years old and first hit with the reality that some people live on the streets.

Caleb’s philanthropic efforts — which rely on the help of friends, family, classmates and others — have evolved since then. He went from handing out a few Christmas packages full of toiletries, food and winter weather accessories to handing out hundreds. He has been involved in big efforts to raise money and provide backpacks and coats to needy children and adults. He just launched a fund-raising effort to provide welcome baskets to homeless women transitioning to permanent housing. And earlier this year he created his own foundation to coordinate his activities.

But a monthly game night he hosts at Genesis House II, a Detroit residence for homeless women and children, has added a different twist to his mission. It’s not about volunteering, raising money or providing essential items. It’s about pizza and pop, Monopoly and Operation, and having fun.

“It’s just a great night for us and for them,” said Caleb, an eighth-grader at Clifford Smart Middle School in Commerce Township. He was honored this year as one of the top 10 youth volunteers in the nation through the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program.

“I love it,” said Kisha Woods-Mathis, director of the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministry’s Genesis House II, which provides transitional housing and employment and educational services to women and children. “The kids love him.”

They also love game night. Jade Diaz’s favorite part? “The pizza,” the 13-year-old said.

For her sister Sapphire Diaz, 11, the best part is the funny people who come to eat and play games with them. Every time, there are new faces, she said.

“We have good memories, good times,” Sapphire said.

The two were chowing down on pizza, talking about their favorite games. Apples to Apples 2 is a big draw, they said. So is Monopoly.

“It’s like Life, but fast,” Sapphire said of Monopoly.

For the kids, game night is important, Woods-Mathis said.

“They’ve been through so much. They’ve been through hurt. Some have been evicted. Some have dealt with domestic violence.”

And Caleb? She said she’s awed to see someone so young have such drive to help others.

“Caleb doesn’t come in here like he’s somebody different. He does everything with the kids. And they love it.”

Caleb’s mother, Melissa Kennedy,  describes her son as one of those kids who gets an idea and has the fire to get it done.

“He sees a need, and he just follows up,” Kennedy said.

His mission began on a frigid day when he was 6. He and his family were in Detroit for a circus and while driving around, he spotted a man in the street. After learning the man was homeless, Caleb was inspired to help.

“Everybody just assumes, ‘Oh, they’re homeless because they made bad choices.’ It’s not that way for everyone. A lot of people have stories that are really, really sad.”

And as he’s heard these stories over the years, Caleb has learned that “they’re just like us.”

He counts the kids at Genesis House II among his friends. But he’s also become someone the kids look up to, Woods-Mathis said.

“They say, ‘When we get out of here, we’re going to give back,’ ” Woods-Mathis said.

That’s exactly what Caleb hopes to inspire.

“I just think that I can set an example for other people so when I’m doing this they can see it and they can go out in their community and it can spread.”

His younger brother Noah Kennedy, 8, is already picking up the torch. Game night actually evolved because Noah had decided he wanted to get involved. Playing games is his favorite activity.

Caleb has also inspired adults like Pete Hayek of Northville, a regular game night participant. He said so often, people wait until they’re older and established to do the kind of work Caleb is doing.

“He’s challenging a lot of us who may have been sitting on the sidelines,” Hayek said.

Caleb won’t be giving up his mission any time soon. He’s involved in many other activities, like wrestling, soccer, hanging out with his friends and playing video games. But volunteering and helping homeless and less fortunate people will always be important, he said.

“I want to continue this until I’m really old,” Caleb said.

Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651, or @LoriAHiggins

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