I was in the middle of writing a post about Hurricane Irma and its impact on us and the lessons we learned from it and I had to stop for a little bit because there was something more important happening than this post could wait.
I was browsing Facebook when a post caught my attention discussing help that the local families were receiving in Southwest Florida after the hurricane. I scrolled down to comments and looked through them. One comment caught my attention. It was a young lady mentioning her sister and 5 kids who lost everything. Their house had 3 feet of flood water, all their belongings were full of mold and this family of 7 was living in a hotel room. No one commented back to her, offered help or acknowledged it. The thought of 5 kids being without a home, without their belongings really bothered me. I contacted her to inquire about her sister’s family. What do they need? How are they doing? Is there anything I could do to help? I figured we could at least gather some toys and clothes for them from Lexi’s room…
The 5 kids were 3 boys and 2 girls, most older than Alexis. So nothing we had would work for them.
At the time I was working with Gymboree on their fall campaign for Daily Mom. I contacted them to see if they could help. They IMMEDIATELY jumped on board. So we had clothes covered for the kids.
Now toys… How could 5 kids be stuck in a small hotel rooms without their toys? And the idea of having all their stuff under water… I know there are worse things out there, but kids need to play. So I went around to some of my brand contacts to see if anyone wanted to help. And of course, as usual, everyone is kind and helpful, so Lexi and I were able to put together some packages of goodies for the kids.
Here is how it all went down:
Lexi and I spent about a week or so receiving packages with shoes, toys, art supplies…
I was very curious to see how Alexis would react to this: a bunch of toys and fun things arriving and it’s not for her. For a child who already has everything, this was going to be a lesson in how others have bigger needs and how to control your own desires. Despite my reservations about how a 5 year old would react to boxes of toys coming in that aren’t for her, it was actually quite exciting for her. We would open boxes, sort through all the goods, put them in order, photograph some, show a little to Lexi, and we would talk about it. She knew everything about the family and was REALLY excited to meet them and give them all the toys. She’s very sensitive to other’s tragedies as it is, so she was very concerned about how they were doing.
On a Sunday afternoon when everything was ready, we agreed to meet at the mall and go shopping at Gymboree together. Up until now I had been talking to Diana, the sister, and this was going to be somewhat of a surprise for the kids. Yvonne (the young mom of 5 kids) introduced everyone in the family, the 3 year old son, 2 girls, ages 6 and 7, and two older teenage boys, The older boys stayed out, and the rest of us walked into the store to see what we could find. While the family walked around with the 3 year old son, the girls (me, Lexi and the two daughters) ran around the store finding cute undies, adorable dresses, trying on kitty cat headbands and making sure mom approved of our selections. I might or might not have had to be a unicorn for a few minutes 🙂
After Shopping at Gymboree and getting more clothes than Yvonne seemed to know what to do with AND getting a $125 certificate for Gymboree bucks to use later, we took off to have some ice cream.
Our plan was to go to a local park and open all the other presents and have the kids see what they got. I’ll break it down by brand.
Ooly was amazing. Not only did they eagerly send a MASSIVE box of art supplies, but they made sure that all the kids in the family had what they need based on age, sex and preference. There were colorful scented markers and pens, glittery pencils, adorable erasers and pencil sharpeners, notebooks, craft kits and seriously anything a kid could only dream of. Even I was giggly watching the beautiful colors flying everywhere as they were exploring the box.
My love for Pediped shoes isn’t simply because they are amazing, durable, comfortable shoes but also because the owners of the company are wonderful, compassionate people who I have the privilege to know personally. All the kids got much needed sneakers and dress shoes. The girls were giddy over their colorful sneakers (I want a pair!) and the boys solemnly discussed their new kicks in the corner.
Learning Resources sent some awesome games and building sets listed below. Anthony, the 3 year old boy zero’ed in on the dinos and did not let up until the box was open. He spent the WHOLE time putting them together and taking them apart. If you have children under 3, don’t even hesitate to buy this amazing educational toy.
Lexi on the other hand went crazy over the Sweet Shop. She asked me if we could buy her that set when we were done. The girls begged to open it and Yvonne thought it would be fine, so they spent most of their time putting together their little Sweet Shop. It is a perfect gift for girls.
Snap-n-Learn™ Matching Dinos (ages 2+)
Caught in the Web™ An Insect Game (ages 7+)
They sent the following games:
Playfoam Go! (ages 3+)
Kanoodle® Jr. (ages 4+)
Freeze Up!® (ages 8+)
Travel Blurt (ages 10+)
Personal note: Lexi thought Freeze Up was so much fun, even though it’s meant for ages 8+ and it’s definitely the kind of game that would make little ones think about their sounds and their vocabulary.