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11 Years After Boy Sends Shoebox Gift, He Receives A Friend Request

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Sometimes it’s the smallest things in life that can have the biggest impact on our futures. Take Tyrel Wolfe and Joana Marchan for example: They were two people from opposite sides of the world brought together by a very simple act of kindness. Years went by without either one of them giving it a second thought. Then, because of the modern conveniences of social media, their lives were brought together in the most unexpected and heartwarming way; and it was all due to that one kind gesture years earlier. An extraordinary chain of events then unfolded, leading to one of the most unforgettable stories of connection in recent times.

1. A Strange Request

It was just a normal day for 18-year-old Tyrel Wolfe, he was going about his daily routine when he received an odd friend request on Facebook. For anyone who uses the social media site, you know that this happens to everyone once in a while. More often than not, it stirs wariness about some scams and spam.

Shoebox gift Ty

Facebook / Joana MW

So, keeping that in mind, Tyrel decided that he would just delete the random request from the stranger and move on with his life. He didn’t put much thought into it at the time. But little did he know, that that same person would eventually come back to play a major role in his life.

2. Joana Marchan

The seemingly random woman who sent the request was named Joana Marchan — a resident of the Philippines. Tyrel had neither been to the Philippines in his life, nor did he recognize the name Joana Marchan. But there was something else that also caught Tyrel’s attention.

Shoebox Gift Joana

Facebook / Joana MW

After reviewing Joana’s Facebook profile, he noticed something odd. From the looks of it, Joana had never been to the United States, and much less to Tyrel’s small town in Idaho. Even though random messages on the social media network aren’t uncommon, something stuck with Tyrel. He was left scratching his head, wondering just what in the world she could have wanted. Soon though, it would all fall into place in a way he couldn’t have imagined.

3. Paying No Mind

Tyrell tried to put the odd occurrence out of his head, figuring that she either had the wrong person or she was indeed some kind of bot Internet scammer. He went about living his life normally in his small country town. He hadn’t replied to the message, but some part of him thought that maybe he should have.

Shoebox Gift Ty

Facebook / Joana MW

But for some reason, he just couldn’t get the request out of his mind. It stayed with him for quite some time. Then he eventually forgot it had happened at all. But, just when everything was back to normal, something strange happened again, it was like déjà vu – Tyrel received another peculiar request on Facebook.

4. A Spark Of Curiosity

With the initial strange request completely out of Tyrel’s mind, two years had in fact passed until Tyrel again found himself again facing an odd occurrence on Facebook. But this incident would ultimately have a very different outcome than the first. Tyrel had received another request from Joana. This time, it further sparked Tyrel’s curiosity.

Shoebox Gift

Facebook / Joana MW

Just why would this woman keep reaching out to him? Why was she so persistent, sending another message after all these years? Yet again, Tyrel went through this woman’s Facebook profile, trying to find some type of connection between the woman known as Joana and himself. Still, though, he found nothing. However, his curiosity had now peaked and he had to know the truth.

5. Mystery Woman

With no friends in common and never having been to each other’s respective countries, Tyrel was coming up blank as to how he could possibly know this mystery woman who kept sending him friend requests on Facebook. There was no way that the two had ever met in person.

Shoebox gift Joana

Facebook / Joana MW

Tyrell Wolfe was so intrigued by this mysterious Filipina woman that he couldn’t help himself from doing something that everyone had warned him against. So, on one fateful day, he took the plunge and decided that he was going to do something to try to get to the bottom of the story.

6. Simple And To The Point

After lots of thinking and consulting with friends and family, Tyrel decided that he was indeed going to reach out to this mysterious Joana woman and finally find out the full story from her. He wanted to get her off of his mind once and for all.

Shoebox Gift

Facebook / Joana MW

So, one day he mustered all the courage he could and messaged her back. After a great deal of thinking about what he would write, Tyrel decided that he was going to keep his message simple and to the point. Taking the short and sweet route, he bluntly wrote: “How do you know me?” But the message that he received back was far from what he’d expected.

7. Samaritan’s Purse

The reply came much quicker than Tyrel had expected. And when he saw what the message contained, it raised even more questions than answers. Instead of simply answering his short question, Joana sent him another question. One that would stump Tyrel and make him search deep into his past.

Shoebox Gift

Facebook / Ty Wolfe

Joana asked Tyrel if he knew of something called Samaritan’s Purse. Tyrel was sure that it was an organization of some sort, but he just couldn’t place when and where he had heard of it. Still, the name did sound somewhat familiar to him. Then, it suddenly came rushing back to him.

8. Operation Christmas Child

Tyrel recalled a time far back in his past when he was just a young boy of 7-years-old. He remember that he had been part of a program called Operation Christmas Child, an organization created by none other than the non-profit called Samaritan’s Purse.

Shoebox Gift

Jeff Gritchen / Digital First Media / Orange County Register via Getty Images

Every year the organization would pack shoeboxes full of gifts for less fortunate children around the world for Christmas. The boxes included things like small toys, toiletries, and even school supplies. Yet, even though Tyrel knew what Joana was talking about, he still didn’t understand why she would be contacting him about a program he had participated in as a child.

9. Shoebox Gift Surprise

The next message that Tyrel received from Joana would answer all of those questions. And it was a message that would rock Tyrel to his core. The message simply stated that she, Joana, had been the recipient of his Christmas shoebox gift all those years ago.

Shoebox gift

RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post via Getty Images

Tyrel was shocked. He couldn’t believe that the recipient of his shoebox had actually remembered his name for so many years and had decided to reach out to him on Facebook now. But while Tyrel was pleasantly surprised, other people, people very close to him were very concerned and not at all happy with what was going on.

10. A Parent’s Fear

Those who were most worried and concerned for Tyrel were undoubtedly his parents. They feared that Joana – if that was her real name – was out for only one thing, to prey on an innocent young Tyrel. They were afraid that Joana was out to deceive Tyrel by gaining his trust online.

shoebox gift Ty

Facebook / Ty Wolfe

Then once his trust was gained, they figured that she would surely ask for money or something much worse. After much thought they decided there was one way to make sure that Joana was telling the truth: to test her. And that is exactly what Tyrel did. He had to make sure that she was authentic and not an Internet scammer.

11. A Test

The only test that Tyrel could think of to ensure that this woman did indeed receive his gift box so many years ago, was to ask her to verify the contents of the present. Would she be able to tell him what he included in the shoe box so many years ago?

shoebox gift

Jeff Gritchen / Digital First Media / Orange County Register via Getty Images

The test would surely tell whether she was making the whole thing up, or if she was telling the truth. But unfortunately, Joana didn’t remember everything that was in the shoebox. She did, however remember one very important detail. And that vital indicator would be a dead giveaway.

12. Not Convinced

While Joana didn’t remember everything that was in the shoebox gift, she did remember some of the items. All of the items that she remembered were correct, but that still wasn’t enough to convince Tyrel that she was telling the truth about receiving the gift he had sent to an unknown recipient years ago.

Shoebox gift

Facebook / Ty Wolfe

That was until she remembered one specific item that was inside the box: a photograph. Tyrel recalled that he had placed a picture of himself in the gift box. But then again many people who sent the same kind of presents also did that. So, he asked her to describe the photo in as much detail as possible.

13. A Cute Cowboy

Joana’s response simply baffled Tyrel. In the reply message, she wrote that she had received a photo of “a cute cowboy with a wooden background.” Tyrel knew this picture well, and knew that it was the exact photo that he had placed inside of the shoebox many years ago.

Shoebox gift pictures

Facebook / Ty Wolfe

Unbelievably, the shoebox had made its way to the other side of the world to a little girl in the Philippines. Not only had she received the box, but she also kept the picture and name of the person who sent her the gift that one fateful Christmas. Tyrel knew 100% that she was telling the truth about the whole thing. But soon, the seemingly-innocent Facebook connection would catapult to a whole other level.

14. Odd Intentions

As nice as the whole situation was, there still remained one question. Did she hold on to those things for so long just in order to say thank you to the sender so many years ago? Or did she have other intentions? Only time would tell.

shoebox gift Joana

Facebook / Ty Wolfe

Joana did indeed thank Tyrel for the nice Christmas gift, and for most people that would be that and then they would go on with their daily lives. But that wasn’t Joana’s intention. She wanted to get to know this mystery man from the other side of the world. Fortunately for them, their story was only getting started.

15. A Daily Basis

As time went by, the unlikely duo continued talking online. It even got to the point that they began speaking on a daily basis. They even found out that they had a lot in common with each other. For example, they found out that they both had a love of Christian music.

shoebox gift Joana

Facebook / Joana MW

The two continued to talk online and, just like that, more than a year and a half had passed. The two felt like they knew each other very well. By that time Tyrel had graduated from high school and was planning his next steps for his future. And he had something very big planned.

16. The Ultimate Travel Plans

From early on in his correspondence with Joana, Tyrel had started to save up money. He knew that one day the two of them were going to meet. And after he graduated from high school he was determined to make that plan a reality. So, one day he sent her a messages asking if he could come to the Philippines to visit.

Shoebox gift

Instagram / Joanamwlf

Joana was ecstatic. Of course, she wanted Tyrel to come to visit her! She wanted to get to know Tyrel in person and wanted her family to meet him as well.  Tyrel wasn’t surprised by her answer, but still, it made him incredibly happy to hear that she wanted him to visit.

17. Journey Of A Lifetime

Flying halfway around the world is no small expense. So Tyrel had to save a lot of money and put in countless hard hours working in order to save up for the flight to the Philippines. A journey that he believed would be the trip of a lifetime.

shoebox gift couple

Facebook / Joana MW

So, when he had saved up enough money, he went ahead and bought a ticket to Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Tyrel Wolfe had never traveled alone, and he was very nervous. How would the flight be? What would it be like in a foreign country? What would it be like finally meeting Joana? These were all likely questions racing through his mind.

18. Open Arms

The time finally came and Tyrel boarded a plane to the Philippines. It usually takes at least 14 hours to get from Idaho to the Philippines, but for Tyrel, it was more than worth it. When he finally landed, Joana was waiting there to greet him into her country. Joana and her family all welcomed Tyrel into their home with open arms and kind gestures.

6 On Your Side/YouTube

It seemed like Joana’s family was also Tyrel’s family by the way they treated him. Also, Joana and Tyrel got along like old rekindled friends, the two connected immediately. There was such a strong connection between the two that something incredible happened. As the days passed by and turned into weeks, something unexpected happened. And it happened without even a second thought.

19. A Long Trip

As the time passed, Joana and Tyrel enjoyed each other’s company more and more. Tyrel’s trip had turned out to be a very long trip indeed. Weeks passed by and neither of them wanted Tyrel to go back home. So he stayed in the Philippines. At least for as long as he could.

Facebook / Joana MW

Soon a month had passed by and Tyrel was still in the Philippines with Joana. Neither could believe just how much time had went by so quickly. Although neither wanted Tyrel to leave, the time for him to return home was growing closer, and so had Joana and Tyrel. At that point, they were far closer than just friends.

20. Time To Say Goodbye

A more appropriate term to describe Joana and Tyrel’s relationship would probably be lovers. Not just friends. But sadly the time came for Tyrel to say goodbye. His trip had already been extended enough. Now it was time to go home and continue with his life.

Facebook / Ty Wolfe

The two promised each other that it would certainly not be the last time that they met. Separation from one another was very difficult. Neither Joana nor Tyrel knew what they were going to do about the separation, it seemed that it would just be too difficult to maintain their relationship. Yet, neither of them expected what was about to happen next.

21. Blooming Beauties

From the second that Tyrel returned to his small town in Idaho, he started saving up money again. After the whirlwind of his first trip, he was determined to again to visit his dear Joana in the Philippines. And pretty soon he made it happen.

Shoebox Gift

Facebook / Joana MW

Tyrel’s second trip to visit Joana was even better than the first. Their relationship deepened even further and soon enough the two were falling in love with each other. But again, before long, it came time for Tyrel to head back home. The separation was just too much for him to handle. But he had a plan, one that would change both of their lives forever.

22. Third Time’s The Charm

By Tyrel’s third trip to the Philippines, he had learned enough Tagalog, the native tongue of the Philippines, to speak with Joana’s father privately about his future with his daughter. In what seemed like an abrupt and out of the blue request, Tyrel asked for Joana’s hand in marriage.

Shoebox gift

Facebook / Joana MW

Joana’s father graciously accepted Tyrel’s request to marry his daughter. But not all of her family was as pleased with the idea as Joana’s father was. There was one other person who played a very big role in Joana’s life whose say mattered a great deal. Depending on that person’s decision, the entirety of their relationship was in jeopardy.

23. The Hesitant Party

The person who was the most hesitant about Tyrel and Joana marrying was Joana’s own mother. For her, it felt like everything was moving just a bit too quickly. She wanted the couple to slow things down and really get to know each other much better before jumping into marriage.

Shoebox Gift

Facebook / Joana MW

Tyrel understood and respected her opinion. He suspected that she felt the way she did because he was a foreigner and Joana’s family didn’t feel like they knew his intentions well enough to agree to a marriage just yet. So, Tyrel did something that none of them expected. He decided to bring in reinforcements.

24. The Reinforcements

In light of their whirlwind romance, Tyrel felt it would help the situation some if Joana’s family were able to meet someone from his family to help clear the air. So, Tyrel convinced his father that it would be a good idea for him to come to the Philippines and meet the family of the woman he loved.

Shoebox gift

Instagram / joanamwlf

Tyrel’s father eventually agreed to the request, understanding that his son was very intent on marrying Joana and that he wanted to do it right. He wasn’t going to marry Joana without her mother’s approval. So Tyrel’s father also headed over to Southeast Asian nation.

25. A Blessing

After meeting with Tyrel’s father, Joana’s mother agreed and gave her blessing for Tyrel and Joana to marry. The couple was thrilled. It was like a dream come true for both of them. The wedding plans moved quickly, and the two ended up getting married in October of 2014 in a simple wedding at Tyrel’s parent’s ranch.

Shoebox gift

Facebook / Joana MW

They married just five short months after Tyrel proposed. Joana wore a wedding gown that she purchased from a thrift store for just $5 and Tyrel wore a traditional Filipino garment called a barong. It was the perfect country wedding. But what made it especially unique was what the happy couple asked from the guests in lieu of wedding gifts.

26. Not A Typical Wedding

Just as Tyrel and Joana didn’t have a conventional love story, neither did they want a typical wedding. They didn’t want anything too extravagant, nor did they want typical wedding gifts. They felt blessed by the way that they were eventually brought together and felt that it was only appropriate for them to pay it forward and give others the chance to connect in the same way.

shoebox gift

Facebook / Joana MW

And more than that, the guests would be giving to charity and the needy. The happy couple asked their guests to bring none other than shoeboxes! But not just any typical shoebox, they were asking for something very special and very personal in light of their wedding. It was the gift that would keep giving.

27. More Shoeboxes

Tyrel and Joana asked their wedding guests to bring shoeboxes full of small gifts to be donated to Operation Christmas Child, the same organization that eventually brought Tyrel and Joana together. The small but thoughtful gift had initially brought the two young kids together and led them all the way to the altar.

Shoebox Gift

Facebook / Joana MW

The couple even spent their honeymoon taking all of the shoeboxes from Idaho to North Carolina. They drove the entire way just to deliver the boxes to Operation Christmas Child in person. But they had made one additional special request of their guests. They were all asked to include, in addition to the gift boxes, one very special item.

28. A Special Note

Each of the wedding guests were asked to place a very special note in their Christmas gift shoebox. On this note was a story of how Tyrel and Joana met, eventually fell in love and ended up marrying each other. But they didn’t put in the note for the reason you might think.

shoebox gift

Facebook / Joana MW

Most would assume that they included the note to give underprivileged children a hopeful fantasy to aspire to, just like that of Tyrel and Joana. But they actually put the notes in the shoeboxes in order to teach others what kind of good things can come out of helping others in need.

29. Country Life

Even after their wedding, the couple continued in their tradition of giving shoebox gifts every year to Operation Christmas Child. After their wedding, Joana decided to move half-way across the world to the United States with Tyrel. Joana, who was used to living in a bustling urban city, now had to get used to small town country life.

shoebox hill

Facebook / Joana MW

Since Tyrel was often required to travel for work, Joana has seen much of the United States. For her, adjusting to the quiet country life wasn’t easy, but with the help of her loving husband, she eventually grew to love it. Still, Tyrel and Joana’s amazing love story didn’t end there as there was still another miraculous result of their coincidental connection.

30. Welcoming Harlann

Just three short years after getting married, the happy couple was expecting a new member of the family. The now-married Joana and Tyrel welcomed a baby boy to the family named Harlann Jun Wolfe. Tyrel and Joana have expressed their gratitude for every day that they’ve had together and their pride in knowing that their story has spread around the world and inspired others to give to charity.

shoebox gift

Instagram / Joanamwlf

Four years after their wedding, the couple are still living out their happy lives in rural Idaho, traveling frequently. They will never forget how they met and the amazing story that followed. And to think it was all because of a shoebox and a photograph. It seems like their story really struck a chord with the public too.

31. Christmas Is The Time

There is nothing more heartwarming than a love story, but a Christmas one is always that much more special. Tyrel and Joana’s story and new wedding gift shoebox initiative not only inspired those close to them; their story also made local and international news.

shoebox gift

Facebook / Joana MW

Christmas will always be a special time for the couple because the festival serves as a constant reminder of how lucky they were to find one another. Comments poured in on Joana’s social media accounts praising their story for how inspiring their love is like “straight out of a fairy tale.” Many couldn’t believe how one simple good deed by an Idaho boy could make so many waves in the world years later.

32. A Reason To Celebrate All The Time

Every wedding anniversary is a reason for Tyrel and Joana Wolfe to celebrate their love and publicly declare how much they love one another to inspire others. No amount of distance could keep these lovebirds apart, and now that they live together and have built a family together it shows how persistence and love conquers all.

shoebox gift

Facebook / Joana MW

Now that baby Harlann Jun is part of their world, he gets special mention on Joana’s social media pages on a regular basis to keep people up to date with what her little family is up to. He just gets cuter and cuter by the day and you’ll soon see.

33. Little Tot

According to Joana Wolfe, her baby Harlann Jun gives her a reason to smile every single morning. Joana shares images of her son and laments how fast he is growing up saying, “Yes, I understand now when they say ‘…they grow up so fast!’ He’s a newborn for a couple of minutes.”

shoebox gift

Instagram / Joanamwlf

Joana went to to joke declaring, “If you need me, ‘ll be soaking up all the baby cuddles I can get.” To celebrate her journey of motherhood, Joana loves to track every moment of Harlann Jun’s development on Instagram and Facebook. Not a moment of joy is missed and it’s a joy to watch!

34. Back To The Roots

Tyrel and Joana might live in Idaho, but they love visiting the Philippines for family trips as often as possible. This picture was taken during a family trip in the Dingalan region of the Joana’s birth country with her family.

Joana Family

Facebook / Joana MW

These are the moments Joana loves to cherish and one way to do that is to post snaps of the trip on Instagram for all her followers to see. This was taken on their way to the Tanawan Falls, a popular tourist attraction in Dingalan. It really looked like the whole family had a blast with those smiles on their faces, including little Harlann Jun.

35. Family Is Life

Joana often proclaims that her family is the greatest gift of her life, and even just a simple moment like cuddling up together makes every day brighter. It amazes her followers every day how one little shoeboex resulted in this beautiful and happy family.

Happy Family

Instagram / Joanamwlf

The smiles on their faces say it all! Joana Wolfe’s posts just keep getting more exciting with time. You can view them here and find out more about them through the link in her bio. We are truly inspired by this remarkable Christmas love story, and we wish Tyrel and Joana a long and happy life together!

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