After 9/11, Carol Gili collected 800 stuffed animals for children who had a parent killed in the disaster. Now she wants to do the same thing for the children in Haiti.
"With children that are in pain and they've lost their parents, you know, what's better than seeing a big smile on their face when someone hands them a stuffed animal," Gili said.
And many children will smile. In just four days, Gili has more than surpassed her 9/11 collection. She estimates there are over 1,000 stuffed animals now crowding her one-bedroom apartment.
"I feel that it's gonna be very comforting for the children of Haiti as they're waiting for the necessities they need," Gili said.
She recruited the help of friends and family in Sioux Falls and Yankton. The outpouring of support is obvious, all over her apartment.
Gili even has three bags full of other stuffed animals that she can't find room for in her apartment. But that won't stop her from continuing to collect even more.
"The conditions that the children are living in now are horrible. A little stuffed animal is going to brighten them up," she said.
And the animals will also bring smiles to help, despite their growing fear and doubt.
"They take that stuffed animal as comfort and a lot of that fear just disappears," Gili said.
With much of the Haitian relief effort controlled by adults, Gili wants to put the focus back on the children.
"Because the children are first, and everything else will fall together," she said.
With many children having lost so much already, having something to hold on to can make all the difference.
Gili is still in the process of collecting stuffed animals and figuring out how to get them to Haiti. She's looking for extra donations of stuffed animals, as well as help with shipping and storage of the furry friends.
If you'd like to help her and her team, contact one of the following people:
- In Sioux Falls, call Bernard Davis at 605-951-2209.
- In Yankton, call Katrina Lindsey at 605-760-1794, Travis Lindsey at 605-760-4496, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.