Ashlee Smith, a 13-year-old from Reno, Nev.,
understands this – that’s why she started Ashlee’s Toy Closet, an organization
that collects toys and donates them to kids who have been affected by natural
disasters, house fires or tough economic times.
When you’re little, toys are a big deal.
Ashlee knows from experience what it’s like to lose a
favorite toy. When she was just five
years old, her family’s home burned down and she lost all of her possessions, including
her fave stuffed animal.
When a large fire hit South Lake Tahoe, Calif., in 2007, she
saw the devastation and wanted to help the kids affected.
“I basically knew how they felt because they didn’t have any
toys and neither did I [after our house fire],” Ashlee explains. She held a toy drive that was a huge success.
She collected a semi-truck trailer full of toys for kids in need!
Since then, Ashlee’s Toy Closet has given out more than
175,000 toys. More than that, Ashlee has
seen how her service has a positive effect on the kids she helps. She tells the story of how of her first
drive. There was a little girl who was really shy and wouldn’t talk to anyone. Ashlee
asked the little girl if she liked Strawberry Shortcake, because that’s what
Ashlee liked when she was five. The girl
said yes, so Ashlee grabbed a $5 Target Strawberry Shortcake puzzle for her,
not thinking it would be a big deal. But
it was. The toy was actually the exact
same as one she had lost, and had been one of her favorite. “She spoke to me for
the rest of the day,” Ashlee says.
At 13, Ashlee’s already accomplished so much. For the work she’s done with Ashlee’s Toy
Closet, she was named a National Honoree at the Prudential Spirit of Community
awards, a yearly program that recognizes middle level and high school students
for outstanding community service. Being
recognized as a National Honoree makes her one of America’s Top 10 Youth
Volunteers for 2012. But Ashlee wants to
keep going and do even more. She hopes
to take her organization nationwide, or even help kids in Africa.
No matter what, Ashlee knows that any act of kindness, big
or small, counts. “You don’t really have
to make a huge impact to help somebody. Anybody can do it,” she says.
What’s her advice for other girls who wanna lend a
hand? Find a cause you’re passionate
about. She explains, “You just have to
have a motive. You have to have a reason behind your organization of why you
want to do it.”
Want to get
involved? Check out www.ashleestoycloset.com
for more information on Ashlee’s Toy Closet and how to donate.
For more information on the Prudential Spirit of Community
Awards and how to apply, click here
BY MARIE HANSEN ON 8/26/2012 12:00:00 AM
POSTED IN charity, do gooder