GARNER — After a year that saw him go from the halls of Garner High School to Hollywood TV studios to arena stages across the nation, Scotty McCreery will close 2011 by visiting with hundreds of children who are much less fortunate.
Scotty, the 18-year-old "American Idol" winner, is traveling to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday with a group of family members and friends. They will be delivering shoeboxes filled with gifts to poverty-stricken children.
The trip is part of "Operation Christmas Child," the international charity program organized by Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse organization.
Scotty has helped put together shoeboxes for the program for years.
Thanks to his newfound celebrity this year, Scotty will have the opportunity to see up-close what the shoeboxes can mean to recipients. Operation Christmas Child hopes to deliver shoeboxes to more than 8.5 million children worldwide this Christmas.
The Dominican Republic holds special appeal for Scotty, said his mother, Judy McCreery. "Baseball's big in the Dominican Republic, so it's going to be great for Scotty," she said. Besides music, Scotty's other passion is baseball, and he hopes to earn a spot on Garner High's team this spring.
The trip will continue through Saturday.
Since winning the top-ranked TV singing competition in May, Scotty's life has been a bit of a whirlwind. He's performed on numerous talk shows, headlined last summer's "American Idols Live!" tour, earned gold records, saw his first album soar to the top of the charts and been named the top new artist at the American Country Awards.
In a few weeks, he'll be heading out on another tour, where he'll open shows for fellow country singer Brad Paisley.
But throughout his success, Scotty has tried to live his life as normally as possible when he's back home in Garner. That came as a surprise to some TV and music executives.
"They said it's impossible - there's no way you can go back to school," Scotty, a senior, remembered. "I said, 'Look, y'all don't know my hometown.'"
Scotty aims to get back to his hometown on Saturday night to see his exiting year come to a close. So how will the "American Idol" celebrate New Year's Eve? His plans aren't firmed up, but he expects something low-key with friends.
"I'm sure there will be something," he said with a grin.