Local organization still hopes to meet its goal of $15,000 before Christmas
When Union County Weekly met with Katie Greene back in July, she already had Christmas on the brain. Now, with less than two weeks to go, saying Katie is living and breathing Christmas would be an understatement.
The 9-year-old Waxhaw resident is the founder of Katie’s Kidz, an organization that aims to give Christmas presents to children in regional hospitals who cannot go home for the holidays. Katie’s goal for this year was to raise $15,000 to purchasing and distribute gifts to hospitalized children in Presbyterian’s Hemby Children’s Hospital, Carolina Medical Center’s Levine Children’s Hospital, Concord’s Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital, Asheville’s Mission Memorial and two newcomers: Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
As of Sunday, Dec. 12, Katie’s Kidz had raised $13,708, and Katie is not slowing down. “I’ve been speaking, selling raffle tickets, doing craft shows, shopping,” she said as she enjoyed a cup of whipped cream at Starbucks. “I hope we have more shopping to do!”
Finding a clear spot on Katie’s calendar for the next couple of weeks would be virtually impossible. In addition to completing her final week of school before Christmas vacation, Katie is speaking to the Marshville Rotary, visiting WIXE-1190 AM radio for a broadcast interview and attending an open house at Matthews’ Elements Massage, which is giving discounted 60-minute massages in exchange for a donation to Katie’s Kidz.
“And Saturday is packing day,” she said.
The Greenes’ church, Weddington United Methodist, has allowed Katie and her supporters to use its fellowship hall for sorting, tagging, and taking inventory. When gifts come in, volunteers are assigning them for a hospital. The number of gifts per hospital is based relatively on the number of beds the hospital contains.
Volunteers also separate gifts of similar nature so each hospital receives a variety. “We want to make sure that Levine [Children’s Hospital] doesn’t end up with a bunch of monopoly games and no art sets, for example,” Katie’s mother, Liz Greene, said.
Hospital liaisons provide lists of approved items and keep Katie’s Kidz informed about specific items requested, such as board games, art sets, gift cards and iPods, to name a few.
“We received a three-page list from Levine of items they want added or taken off,” Liz Greene said. “Hospitals let us know what they need more or less of.”
In spite of all the hustle and bustle that comes with purchasing and distributing gifts, Katie’s Kidz still takes time to have fun and be creative. “Daddy has lots of cool ideas,” Katie said. “He got a pole and decorated it with red and white and wrote, ‘Welcome to the North Pole’ on the whiteboard in the fellowship hall.”
Next week, Katie’s Kidz delivers the gifts. The Greenes are especially excited because they wanted to visit the children’s hospitals at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill. “We simply had enough to offer them, so it all worked out,” Liz Greene said.
Katie’s Kidz also has succeeded with two other initiatives: band-aid and toiletry drives.
Katie and her supporters decided to collect funny, character band-aids to give children a reason to smile.
The toiletry items, such as soap, shampoo, razors, Kleenexes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, go to parents of hospitalized children who either run out of these necessities and are not able to go home and get them.
“We use stories of parents who have been in these situations when we ask for toiletry items,” Liz Greene said. “We have had a lot of success.”
Katie’s Kidz also is starting to gather magazines to give to the hospitals. “We met a lady who was a volunteer at Levine,” Greene said. “She goes around to the rooms and passes out magazines. That inspired us to have a magazine drive.”
No wonder Katie’s Kidz will continue to stay busy after the holidays.
Although the Christmas rush is extremely fulfilling for everyone at Katie’s Kidz, the Greenes are also looking forward to taking a breather once Dec. 26 arrives.
“Last year, we kind of all walked around like zombies for about three days after Christmas,” Katie’s mom said. “But by the first week in January, we already had people calling us, asking if Katie could speak at their event.”
The Katie’s Kidz volunteers have been inspired by the community’s generosity. Stores have given discounts. Schools have organized toy drives and collected hundreds of dollars in loose change. Strangers have given money after overhearing a conversation in a store.
“The thing that I’ve seen this year that just blows me away is an overwhelming generosity from people that, even in a tight economy, are still willing to give,” Liz Greene said.
Katie also noticed the eagerness of her peers to help. “There’s a boy in the second grade at Covenant Day named Timmy,” she said. “He was so moved by my speech at school that he is donating all the toys he gets from his birthday party to Katie’s Kidz.”
Besides reaching her $15,000 goal and assuring children in all six hospitals get presents, Katie doesn’t want a lot for Christmas. She did mention a soccer ball, the board game Life and a Mario Kart game for her Nintendo DS.
The Greenes aren’t completely sure what’s in store for Katie’s Kidz in 2011. They plan to continue the band-aid and toiletry drives and add magazines to their list. “We try to take it one day at a time,” Liz Greene said.
Katie is adopting that philosophy as well. “After I have my conference with God, I’ll let you know what next year’s goal is.”