Over the course of a decade, the late George H.W. Bush sponsored a boy living in the Philippines who had no idea that the money, letters, and gifts coming to him from the United States were being sent by a former president.
Bush learned about Compassion International, a nonprofit that connects sponsors with children from poor communities, in 2001, the organization's former president, Wess Stafford, told CNN on Tuesday. Bush's security team did some digging, and after vetting Compassion International, they agreed that he could sponsor 7-year-old Timothy. There were some rules, though; he had to use a pseudonym, to protect Timothy from someone who might target him due to his link to Bush.
For 10 years, Bush sent letters — signed "George Walker" — and funds that paid for Timothy's education, activities, and food. Stafford screened Bush's letters, describing them to CNN as being "the most sweet, spirited letters I have read from any sponsor, but he kept giving hints as to who he could be. He was really pushing the envelope." Bush sent photos of his dog, Sadie, and told Timothy that he was invited to the White House for Christmas. Timothy drew pictures for Bush, who in turn sent him sketch pads, colored pencils, and paint, even though gifts were not allowed.
Timothy didn't find out who his sponsor was until he turned 17 and graduated. He was stunned, Stafford said, never having a clue that his pen pal and benefactor was once the president of the United States of America.