By Lisa Morgan, American Red Cross

HOUSTON – Seven-year-old Carsyn Collins took it upon herself to fill what she saw as a gap in disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurrican Harvey

“I wanted to help the children that lost all of their toys because of the hurricane,” Carsyn said.

The first grader from Magnolia, Texas, managed to collect a truckload of toys, which were delivered to the American Red Cross to give to children still living in shelters some five weeks after the historic storm and flooding.

Carsyn after filling ERV
Carsyn Collins, seven-year-old first grader filling up Red Cross emergency response vehicle with toys headed to Greenspoint Mall Shelter in Houston. Red Cross photo by Lisa Morgan)

While the Red Cross has been providing shelter, food, health and mental health support and financial assistance to hundreds of thousands of Texans, Carsyn was thinking particularly of the children.

A family brainstorming session and her own enthusiasm set the ambitious project in motion.

“We were really concerned there after the first couple of hours when we started the drive,” her dad, Cooper Collins, said. “I wondered if we were going to have to buy all the toys ourselves!”

But the generosity of friends and family, and the power of social media fulfilled Carsyn’s goal.

More than 200 toys – dolls, art easels, blocks, trucks, cars and other treasures – were distributed to the just over 100 children at the Greenspoint Mall shelter in Houston. Children throughout the facility suddenly had a new toy to call their own, partial replacement for all they had lost.

Even the Red Cross staff was inspired.

“All of the hard work our staff has invested in this response and for them to see this little girl excited to donate these new toys so that the smallest disaster victims could have some sense of normalcy lifted our team’s spirit,” volunteer John Bernard said.

In recognition of her generosity and volunteer spirit, the shelter team signed and presented Carsyn with her very own red and white disaster vest.

Joshua Byas
Joshua a resident at the Greenspoint Mall Shelter beams as he receives as he received his remote control car. Red Cross photo by Jim McIntyre)
Bringing toys into the shelter
Red Cross volunteers loaded the toys onto the flatbed carts and rolled them into the shelter for distribution to the children at Greenspoint Mall Shelter. (Red Cross photo by Jim McIntyre)