Katie’s Kidz celebrates five years of bringing Christmas to hospitalized children
It’s the fifth year for Katie’s Kidz, and Katie Greene has no plans of slowing down. The 10-year-old founder is determined to make 2011 the biggest and best Christmas ever.
Katie’s Kidz was born in 2007 when then 6-year-old Katie was out Christmas shopping. While holding a teddy bear, Katie had an epiphany. If she could give a toy to all the sick children in the hospital, their Christmas would be a little better…a little brighter.
During the following three days, Katie raised $162 (including money she had been saving to buy a puppy), and the Greene family presented two Santa bags full of toys to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. By 2010, Katie’s Kidz had set its yearly goal at $15,000, which it topped by raising a little over $15,700, and was reaching out to children in eight hospitals.
Never satisfied with leveling out, Katie increased her 2011 goal to $20,000 and expanded her outreach to target 11 different hospitals: Levine Children’s Hospital, Presbyterian Charlotte’s Hemby Children Hospital, CMC Union, in Monroe; Concord’s Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital; Cleveland Regional, in Shelby; Mission Children’s Hospital, in Asheville; Brenner Children’s Hospital, in Winston-Salem; Greenville Children’s Hospital, in Greenville, S.C.; MUSC Children’s Hospital, in Charleston, S.C.; and the children’s wards of Duke and Chapel Hill.
Katie set her goal in February during her annual beginning-of-the-year conference with God.
“If you want to talk to God, you have to be quiet because, you know, you can’t always hear him,” Katie said. “When you listen and let him talk, that’s when you know (what you’re supposed to do).”
Throughout the year, Katie promotes Katie’s Kidz through various speaking engagements, beginning in early January – even before her goal is set for that year. Always eager to speak to any type or size of crowd, Katie gives 15 to 20 minute presentations with a slideshow and Q&A session at rotary clubs, churches, schools, and other group meetings.
And, as always, she welcomes any monetary or gift donations, which include a vast majority of items, such as stuffed animals, play toys, board games, DVDs, CDs, iTunes gift cards, and art kits.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, various organizations host toy drives for Katie’s Kidz. Covenant Day School and Mills Cleaners in Weddington, Waxhaw, Stallings, and Monroe on Skyway Drive have all served as drop-off locations. Companies and individuals have hosted private parties in which guests are asked to bring a toy for Katie’s Kidz.
Katie and her parents, Dean and Liz Greene, also spend quite a bit of time shopping. Recently, they went on a two-part Black Friday shopping spree to get the best deals on gift items.
Once the gifts are purchased, they are taken to a storage area that serves as the warehouse for Katie’s Kidz. On “packing day,” a week before Christmas, the gifts are loaded and transported to Weddington United Methodist, where a crew of volunteers is responsible for tagging the items and sorting them so that each hospital gets the number and variety of gifts it needs.
The sorted gifts are then re-boxed and transported back to the storage area. A list of inventory is posted on the outside of each box so the hospitals know what items are in the box and can avoid aimlessly sifting through boxes when searching for the right gift.
Although the volunteers try to maintain a method of organization and even distribution, they don’t over-fret about what goes to each hospital.
“The big thing that we tell everybody is wherever it goes, it is the right place,” Liz Greene said. “God will make sure it gets in the right hands. You just trust that it’s going to the right place.”
Should the hospitals receive an overage of gifts (as they often do), they store the items in safe-keeping and present them to hospitalized children on birthdays, bad days, milestone days, and other special holidays.
Katie is hoping to take a road trip after packing day to distribute the gifts to the different hospitals. Although she does not get to be there when the children receive their presents, Katie still feels fulfilled visiting the hospitals and knowing that many children are going to be a little happier this year despite the tough situations with which they are dealing.
In addition to toys for children, Katie’s Kidz also strives to collect much-needed toiletry items for the parents of hospitalized children and character band-aids for the kids.
“We’ve had a few people (donate) character band-aids, but not a whole lot,” Liz Greene said. “That’s a big hole that I would like to see filled. We have some toiletries, but we’d love to see more, particularly travel-sized deodorant, combs, shaving cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste.”
Other than reaching her goal, Katie’s 2011 hope is to reach as many kids as possible. “We want to reach their needs, of course, and we pray that the toys end up in the right hands,” Katie said.
In support of Katie’s Kidz, Dilworth Coffee House in Mint Hill will host an afternoon of acoustic holiday music Saturday, Dec. 10 from 1 to 4 p.m., featuring members of local band Blank Canvas. The event is admission-free, and drinks will be served at discounted prices. Monetary donations of any size are welcome. q
For more information on Katie’s Kidz, or to make a donation via PayPal, visit www.katieskidz.org.