Five years ago, Katie Greene was standing in a department store, holding a teddy bear when she had a realization: What if she could give a toy to all of the sick children in the hospital for Christmas?
Since then, the 11-year-old Covenant Day School student has worked to do just that through her organization, Katie’s Kidz. Now in its sixth year, Katie’s Kidz has raised tens of thousands of dollars for 11 different children’s hospitals in North and South Carolina, and Katie hopes to reach out to an additional two hospitals this year.
Throughout the year, Katie, of Weddington, travels to schools, churches, Rotary clubs and other organizations, speaking about the nonprofit and how it’s helped put a smile on the faces of hundreds of children during a very difficult time.
In the months leading up to the holidays, Katie adds more speaking engagements to her calendar and works with various organizations to host toy drives where people can donate new toys for hospitalized kids.
But Katie’s efforts came to a sudden halt about two months ago when her grandfather had a massive heart attack. Her “PawPaw” spent almost a month in the hospital and had several procedures, but his heart was too weak and damaged from the coronary, and he died in late October.
While caring for her “PawPaw,” Katie and her family had to cancel several speaking engagements and weren’t able to set up any additional events. In addition, their mailing campaign – letters that are sent out to about 600 recipients asking for donations – got off to a late start.
But in spite of her loss, Katie chose to make a difficult year special by dedicating 2012’s fundraising efforts to her grandfather and honoring his memory and legacy.
“I’m doing it to honor him and his memory,” Katie said. “I’m dedicating this year to his memory.”
This year Katie hopes to raise $25,000, almost $3,000 more than she raised last year. Her deadline for meeting that goal is Dec. 18.
Katie’s Kidz works with 11 area hospitals including Levine Children’s Hospital and Hemby Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.
Every year, Katie takes 100 percent of the funds raised through the mailing campaign, speaking engagements, online donations via PayPal and other private contributions and uses them to purchase toys of all kinds for all ages.
Katie and her family hit the stores Thanksgiving night and Black Friday to get the best deals on goodies. This year, they visited a number of Walgreens locations, where they purchased a handful of iTunes gift cards. For every $30 iTunes gift card purchased during the special sale, Walgreens provided a complimentary $10 Walgreens gift card, which the family used to buy disposable cameras, nail polish, makeup kits, batteries and other items for Katie’s Kidz.
The family then split up to cover more territory. Katie’s dad, Dean, went to Michael’s to get craft sets and journals while Katie and her mom, Liz, braved the Walmart crowd to get DVDs and toys.
Every year, the toys are transported to a mini-warehouse where they’re stored until “packing day.” On packing day – Dec. 15, this year – the toys are taken to the Weddington United Methodist Church
fellowship hall where dozens of volunteers sort and pack the toys into boxes to be delivered to specific hospitals. Sorting helps ensure each hospital gets the right number of presents as well as a variety of items.
The boxes are taken back to the mini-warehouse and stored until the following week, when they’re transported to their destinations. Hospital staff distribute the gifts appropriately to the children on Christmas Day.
In addition to money and toys, Katie’s Kidz also collects character Band-Aids for hospitalized children and toiletry items for their parents and caretakers.
Liz Greene said if Katie’s grandfather were still alive, he’d be bursting with pride.
“(Katie’s Kidz) meant so much to him,” she said. “Daddy loved helping Katie because he loved helping people.”
Want to help?
For more information or to donate, visit www.katieskidz.org.