Photo courtesy of Zach Atwell

Owen Atwell, 11, poses in November 2020 with the pigs he raised. 2021 was Owen’s third year raising pigs.

If you’re looking for 11-year old Owen Atwell, you’ll probably find him spending time outdoors, tending pumpkins and sunflowers in his garden or taking care of his pigs.

Owen and his family live in North Java, New York, where they attend Clarence Center-Akron Mennonite Church. The Atwell family consists of his mom and dad, Zach and Erica, his older brother, Derek, and his younger sister, Ella.

An October 2019 photo of the Atwell family (left to right): Ella, Zach, Derek, Owen and Erica. Photo courtesy of Zach Atwell

This is Owen’s third year caring for pigs, raising them to plump perfection, caring for them if they get sick and feeding them twice daily – even in the rain. Owen’s dad, Zach, says, “Whatever he sets his mind to, he’s very dedicated about it and does it well. He’s very independent and…”  –  Erica, Owen’s mom, finishes Zach’s sentence – “…immerses himself in everything he does.”

When the time comes, Owen sends the pigs to the local butcher shop. He keeps some meat for his family and sells some to other families.

This year, Owen used part of the proceeds of selling his pigs to buy a pig and a goat from MCC’s Christmas Giving guide. MCC Christmas Giving provides opportunities for people of all ages to give gifts that change lives. From books and mosquito nets to clean water and fruit trees, each carefully curated gift in the catalog makes a big impact on vulnerable individuals and communities around the world.

Owen’s family receives MCC’s Christmas Giving guide in the mail each year, and Zach and Erica encourage Owen and his siblings to select fun gifts to give as a family. Last year, Owen selected the gift of a pig. This year, he expanded his generosity by adding a goat to his MCC Christmas Giving list.

Owen’s gift of a pig will provide someone with the chance to better support themselves and their family. It’s a living piggy bank, as pigs can be raised and sold.

Owen’s gift of a goat can help families absorb economic shocks, like a failed harvest, or pay for school fees or medical care. Goats are adaptable and easy to raise, even in small spaces.

He hopes that his gifts to his global neighbors will help their families with money earned from the pig.

"We can sense that Owen has already experienced joy [from giving this gift]..."

- Zach Atwell, Owen's father

Owen’s dad, Zach, says, “We can sense that Owen has already experienced joy [from giving this gift], but we hope that the joy of giving would linger and that there would be a sense of reward each time he shares with others. And that the joy and sense of reward would compel him to want to continue to share in the future.”


At MCC, we believe there is no better way to celebrate the season than by helping change lives by addressing hunger, education, health and more. Through MCC’s Christmas Giving guide, you can help some of the world’s most vulnerable people in the name of a friend or family member. Visit mcc.org/delight to choose from unique gifts, including pigs, goats and more!

This Christmas season could also be a good opportunity to talk about generosity with your children. MCC’s free, printable resource helps kids explore the basics of living generously at an elementary school level.