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Spreading love to pets this Christmas: ‘They’re going to be excited’

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. -- Austin Gammon’s Christmas wishes arrive by the bucketful. Piles of gifts the Mechanicsville man can’t wait to give away. The 20-year-old has a soft-spot for four paws.

"Between cats and dogs, I love them about the same. The one thing that won’t change is my love for animals," Austin said.

Living with Autism, Austin faced years of teasing and bullying.

"I don't want others to go through what I went through in high school," he said.

His mother Donna said her son has struggled with being alone.

"As a mom you struggle with that as well, because you want to see your child happy," she said.

Austin’s pets, especially his cat, never let him down.

"The cat basically became his best friend," Donna said.

Animals eased his pain, in a time of need.

"I’d come home play with them. Hang out with them. They mean so much to me," Austin said.

Now Austin is providing the comfort -- for others.

"Christmas is all about giving back and giving to those who need it. And those animals really need it," Austin said.

A few weeks ago, he launched Operation Furry Christmas. He is asking generous pet lovers for help and gifts are pouring in.

“Those dogs and cats will be like a child on Christmas Day. They’re going to be excited,” Austin said.

At veterinary clinics, like Hanover Green, manager Ashlea Lorentzen said clients have responded to their kind-hearted neighbor’s plea.

“We have blankets. Litter box liners. Toys galore. Oh, my goodness,” Ashlea said. “When I first met Austin and he brought this to my attention, I was super stoked about it. It was awesome. We need that in the world today. We need his caring and compassion. It would do us all good that we had people like Austin in our world and had them in our life.”

Austin will distribute all donated toys, food, and bedding to no-kill shelters across Central Virginia.

“My heart is full,” Donna said. “I think for the first time I think he has purpose that he didn’t have before.”

Christmas will be a little brighter for cats and canines thanks to Austin Gammon spreading good cheer from his bucket of love.

“They can wake up on Christmas and have something to celebrate,” Austin said. “That they aren’t alone. And that someone cares deeply enough about them.”

If you want to donate to Austin’s cause you can visit Veterinary Services of Hanover and Hanover Green Veterinary Clinic.

Watch CBS 6 News at 6 p.m. Thursdays for Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" reports. If you know of someone CBS 6 should should feature, email heroes@wtvr.com

Watch CBS 6 News at 6 p.m. Thursdays for Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" reports. If you know of someone CBS 6 should should feature, email heroes@wtvr.com

Watch CBS 6 News at 6 p.m. Thursdays for Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" features. If you know of someone CBS 6 should should feature, email heroes@wtvr.com. Click here to view more "Heroes Among Us" reports.