12-year-old boy dedicates his life to collecting socks for people in Detroit

Rudy Washington hands out socks to people who need them

DETROIT – A child is going into some of Detroit's neighborhoods that need help the most and inspiring thousands of people.

A couple of years ago, Rudy Washington was sitting in his Taylor home with his mother when she was reading that socks are the item most needed but least collected for needy people.

Rudy's response was to start a sock drive. At first, his mother wasn't sure, but they had no idea about the worldwide attention he would receive.

Rudy spends much of his days in the car with his parents looking for people to help.

"I saw the need and I acted on it," he said. "I'm in seventh grade now."

When Rudy hands out socks, word spreads quickly on the sidewalk and they're handed out in a matter of minutes.

The family even took time to put a pair of socks on a man who had a hard time bending over.

Anyone who talks to the seventh-grader can tell he's wise beyond his years.

"Some of these people that I meet are amazing," Rudy said. "But their appearances may not be so well. As my mom always says, don't judge a book by its cover. You have to read the book to know the story."

Rudy has handed out more than 50,000 pairs of socks since he first started his sock drive two years ago. One of his frequent stops is the Detroit Rescue Mission, and in his last visit, he dropped off 4,000 pairs of socks.

"Rudy, he came and blessed us with the very good idea," said Chad Audi, president and CEO of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. "Most people think it's enough to feed them, enough to shelter them. But they don't know they are in need for things to keep them warm in cold weather, and socks are a very important idea."

Rudy's parents said they couldn't be prouder of him.

"Rudy encourages me," said Star Washington, Rudy's mother. "He gives me hope knowing he is our future."

"You can't see how far my chest is sticking out," said Rudy Washington Sr., Rudy's father. "You know, proud dad moment."

They help organize the sock drives that have received donations from over the world.

Just recently, Michigan State University men's basketball coach Tom Izzo congratulated the 12-year-old, and Rudy's awards, presentation and media presence is growing.

Rudy is making rounds on the speaking circuit, encouraging others to set a goal and go for it. He said he was bullied so badly in school he turned to homeschool. Now, he travels to teach about no-bully zones in school.

What's next for Rudy?

"I'm going to push this forward and try to do this my entire life," he said. "If this doesn't go well, I'm going to have a backup plan to go to college and make the best of me."

Rudy and his family recently moved to Georgia, but that doesn't stop him from making trips back to Metro Detroit to drop off thousands of socks he collects.

If you want to learn more about Rudy's fight against bullying or donate to his socks drive, click here.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.