WEDDINGTON – 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 Weddington 11 year old 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 travels to schools, churches, rotary clubs and other organizations, speaking about Katie’s Kidz 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 under went several procedures, but his heart was too weak and damaged from the coronary, and he died in late October.
While caring for 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 not using PawPaw as a fundraiser,” Katie said. “I’m doing it to honor him and his memory. I’m dedicating this year to his memory.”
Thankfully, Katie and her family have been able to get the ball rolling once again and are striving to reach this year’s goal of $25,000. That’s almost $3,000 more than they raised last year.
They’re reaching out to the 11 hospitals they’ve worked with before: Levine Children’s Hospital and Hemby Children’s Hospital, both in Charlotte; CMC-Union in Monroe; Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital in Concord; Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville; Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem; Cleveland Regional Medical Center in Shelby; the children’s hospitals at Duke and Chapel Hill; the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and Greenville Children’s Hospital in Greenville, S.C.
If she hits the $25,000 mark, Katie plans to add Greenville Children’s Hospital in Greenville, N.C., and Palmetto Children’s Hospital in Columbia, S.C., to the list. Her deadline for meeting the goal is Dec. 18.
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 games, DVDs, shake-and-go cars and other toys.
“Divide and conquer – that’s our strategy,” Liz Greene said.
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. Katie recently collected more than 1,300 character Band-Aids through two Band-Aid drives, one of which was held at Antioch Elementary in Weddington.
Liz Greene said if Katie’s PawPaw was still alive, he’d be bursting with pride for all Katie is accomplishing through her organization.
“(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 on Katie’s Kidz, or to make a donation via PayPal, go to www.katieskidz.org.