WESLEY CHAPEL – Hundreds of senior citizens will stay a little warmer this winter, thanks to three local children.
Bailey Hill, a third-grader at Wesley Chapel Elementary School, recently organized the second annual Socks for Seniors drive – an initiative that’s collected more than 1,200 pairs of socks since its inception in late 2012. Two of his friends, Sam and Rachel Blewitt, jumped on board this year, helping Bailey collect more than 800 pairs of socks for local seniors.
Bailey launched the Socks for Seniors initiative around November 2012 to help local senior citizens during the holidays. He and his grandmother, Bea Hill, came up with the idea to collect money to purchase socks for residents of local nursing homes, and raised enough to purchase 387 pairs of socks for the residents of three nursing homes.
“Last year, I felt so good inside that I wanted to do it again this year,” Bailey said.
Bailey began planning the second annual drive shortly after the 2013-14 school year commenced, and started collecting donations in October. He accompanied his grandmother to craft shows, where he promoted Socks for Seniors while his grandmother sold her paintings. Donors received small prizes – lollipops of various sizes, toy snakes and stuffed bears – in return for their contribution to the drive.
“One of the shows, he just stood outside and caught people as they were walking in and coming out,” Bea Hill said, adding Bailey had a lot of success collecting donations at the shows.
Bailey also reached out to people for help through Black Belt World in Wesley Chapel, where he studies Tae Kwon Do. He surprised his grandmother by getting up on stage and asking for contributions during a Bingo night at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Indian Trail, and also reached out to strangers in grocery store lines for donations.
“That’s the fun thing for me, sitting there listening to him and smiling bigger than I could smile in my entire life,” Bea Hill said.
And Bailey wasn’t alone in his efforts this year. Sam and Rachel, ages 9 and 7, respectively, helped collect donations. Their goal was to double the amount of socks purchased the previous year, and together they eclipsed their goal and were able to deliver 866 pairs of socks to residents of seven area nursing homes.
The three philanthropists spent seven consecutive days leading up to Christmas traveling to the different nursing homes, distributing the socks in person to each recipient. They also gift-wrapped every pair of socks so the residents would have a present to open, and when they came across residents without legs or feet, Bailey, Sam and Rachel gave them a stuffed animal
“It makes me feel good, and I’m glad to help other people less fortunate than us,” Bailey said.
His grandmother said the residents expressed an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude, as well.
“We had people crying. They were so thankful,” she said.
Bailey already has next Christmas on the brain and is trying to figure out how to expand Socks for Seniors. His goal for 2014 is to collect at least 1,000 pairs of socks, and he said Rachel hopes to get her Girl Scout troop on board, as well.
“I want more people to join in this year,” Bailey said. “I want to have a whole group of people.”