Thanks to a plan devised by a Wichita girl who noticed something missing from the stacks of food and household donations at a Wichita car dealership, the youngest victims of the Midwest's recent tornadoes may feel a little better.
In a partnership suggested by 6-year-old Lexi Dicks, Eddy's Toyota will expand efforts to collect donations for tornado victims in Joplin, Mo., and Reading by accepting new and gently used toys.
Lexi and her mom, Erin Haynes, 26, will be at the dealership at 4 p.m. today to collect toy and cash donations.
Customer relations manager DeeDee Vermillion said that when the dealership started accepting nonperishable food, hygiene products and cleaning supplies last week, no one thought to collect toys.
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"As adults, we are trying to just take care of our families, just food and water," Vermillion said. "When Lexi brought that up, it was so awesome of her."
Lexi's plan started after her mom took her to the dealership to donate bottled water. Haynes said she thought the trip would give Lexi a quick lesson in volunteering.
But when Lexi didn't see any toys among donations, she asked her mom, then the dealership, to help more.
"As adults, we go into survival mode when stuff like this (tornadoes) happens ... but we forget that there are little things that we can do like give kids a stuffed animal," Haynes said.
"I'm very proud of her. At 6 years old, I hope she inspires someone else."
Haynes and Lexi plan to use any cash donations to buy toys for the drive at Imagine That Toys, 2939 N. Rock Road. Owner Gwen Ottenberg said she will double Lexi's money.
"If someone donates $100, we'll match it with $200 in toys," Ottenberg said.