Toy drive aims to brighten children of hurricane victims

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Courtney Klemm

When Becky Smith, head librarian of the University’s Business and Economics Library, heard about the multiple hurricanes that hit Florida this summer, she immediately thought about the children.

“After I learned (Hurricane) Charley was so devastating, I went to the Library of Human Resources and said ‘we need to do something for the kids,'” she said.

With help from other members of the library staff, Smith conducted a toy drive to help benefit the children of the families that were hurricane victims.

“I felt like we could all pitch in and give a toy or a game,” she said. “The library community stepped right up.”

Cindy Kelly, head of the University’s Library of Human Resources at the University, decided to join Smith in her efforts.

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    “I have two children of my own. I felt a great amount of sympathy and empathy,” Kelly said. “Children are silent victims. They have to rely on parents and others to take care of them. A toy might help to reassure them.”

    Kelly said the community began to collect gently used toys, games and books after the season’s first hurricane hit Florida, but organizers of the drive weren’t sure where to send them at first. The collection was initially going to go the Salvation Army, but the charity said they would be putting the toys for sale in the stores rather than donating them to families, which was not the organizers’ goal.

    “We waited until after the fourth hurricane hit until we searched the Internet and discovered a toy drive a radio station was doing,” Kelly said.

    Nine boxes of toys were sent to the non-profit program Christmas Kids in Port St. Lucie, Fla. This particular area was hit by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne. Last year, around 1,700 children needed toys, but more than 2,000 children in the area are on the waiting list this year because of the hurricanes.

    Carol Wyatt, president of Christmas Kids, invited Smith to speak on air about her efforts for the radio station WPLS AM 1590 in Port St. Lucie at the end of November. Wyatt said Illinois was the farthest place from which donations were sent.

    On top of organizing the toy drive, Smith said she decided from the beginning to give a little more. She offered to pay for all of the UPS shipping charges to send the collected toys to Christmas Kids so that there was no expense for anyone else.

    “I thought it was generous and extraordinary,” said Alexis Daniel, secretary at the Library of Human Resources. “That’s just part of who Becky is. The children touched her heart.”