CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - A Huntersville teen with nearly 700,000 YouTube followers is touching hearts on social media after posting a Thanksgiving video of himself giving shoes to the homeless who sleep on benches in uptown Charlotte.
The teen, 17-year-old Giancarlo Purchia, is a senior at a charter school in Huntersville and posts as Blazendary on his own YouTube channel.
His 11-minute video, posted Thanksgiving night, has racked up 151,000 views and 1,200 comments. It's not uncommon for his most popular videos to get one million or more views. (His biggest video to date has 5.3 million views.)
In the video, Purchia and his brother, Leonardo, are seen walking the sidewalks of Tryon Street, randomly asking the homeless if they need new shoes. In some cases, he gets down on one knee and helps the homeless try on and lace up the shoes, which were top-of-the-line sneakers.
"Ya'll are a blessing," says one homeless woman, obviously proud that she just scored a new pair of Nike sneakers. "Good bless, ya'll."
In one case, he is seen giving a pair of Air Jordans to a homeless man, who turns out to be an Air Force veteran. The unnamed man, who shows off his military ID, holds up the shoes like a trophy. The veteran also shows off the soles of his old shoes, which are clearly worn out.
"I never expected that: A veteran who had no where to go for the night," said Purchia, who cited the encounter as one of the more moving moments of the night. "I wanted to approach these people with open arms and let them know I was there to help, to give back, and it felt great...I didn't want to talk about why they were on the bench and everything. I knew that would make them uncomfortable."
The Blazendary channel has been a YouTube draw for about three years, with vlogs devoted to high-end fashion and sneakers. That's why it made sense for him to give out shoes, he says. Some of the shoes were donated by a partner, Sneaker1 Charlotte, he says.
Purchia says he feels a connection to the city's needy because his own family went through a period of financial struggle when they were living in New York's Westchester area, five years ago.
"I remember my parents stressing over bills. Seeing them like that, I really wanted to work my own way out of it," he says. "I liked the idea of inspiring a bit of positivity in the people we met on the street. I hope that, with those new shoes, they can walk a new path and try to find a way off that bench. My family faced struggle and worked beyond it."
The video was racking up to 1,000 views an hour on Friday, including viewers who called it inspirational and humbling.
"The fact that you actually helped them put on (the shoes) shows you really love your city," posted one commenter on YouTube.
"Wish there were more people like you," wrote Henrick Nybakken on YouTube. "To make someone smile is worth more than everything in the entire world."