Local News

Teens Help Youngest Victims of Disasters

Posted May 3, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— A youngster in the Virgin Islands probably has no idea that his chance appearance in a televised news story two years ago is leading to happiness for countless other children he will never meet.

Also fortuitously, Christie Sanderson of Wake Forest watched WRAL-TV5's news report of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Marilyn across the Caribbean. As inevitably happens after such disasters, people poke through the rubble to find anything salvagable.

The photographer found the young boy pushing a wire grocery store cart -- and in it a shiny yellow truck. The boy looked at the camera and smiled around a whistle he had also found.

Christie realized how much pleasure the boy derived from the two rescued items, and how reassuring it must have been to him to find anything to hang on to. And with that came an even bigger thought: to deliver clean, used toys to children who have been through natural disasters and have likely lost their treasured dolls and bikes, catcher's mitts and favorite games.

Today, Operation Toy Box is in high gear, with children and their families in North Carolina helping the country's latest victims -- the children whose lives have been disrupted by flooding along the Red River in North Dakota.

Christie has enlisted the help of her high school friends and other volunteers. They campaign for the toys and games, gather them from the various donation sites, ensure that they are clean and working properly, and ship them off to new homes.

One teen volunteer is B.J. Collins, who says he realizes that the work of Operation Toy Box can allay anxiety of some of the children, as well asa make it easier for their parents.

The stuffed animals will soon be in chubby, loving hands and board games will be giving siblings opportunity once again to dispute who counted incorrectly or should have landed on a penalty square. Sounds like life as usual -- one of Christie's goals for children who have found everything around them changed dramatically.

Volunteers are always welcome to help with Operation Toy Box. Call 919-554-1410 to donate toys or money, or to help with toy clean-up or collection.