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Teens Help Youngest Victims of Disasters

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Stuffed animals will soon find welcoming arms
WAKE FOREST — A youngster in the Virgin Islands probablyhas no idea that his chance appearance in a televised news story two yearsago is leading to happiness for countless other children he will nevermeet.

Also fortuitously, Christie Sanderson of Wake Forest watchedWRAL-TV5's news report of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Marilynacross the Caribbean. As inevitably happens after such disasters, peoplepoke 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 andsmiled around a whistle he had also found.

Christie realized how much pleasure the boy derived from the tworescued items, and how reassuring it must have been to him to findanything to hang on to. And with that came an even bigger thought: todeliver clean, used toys to children who have been through naturaldisasters and have likely lost their treasured dolls and bikes, catcher'smitts and favorite games.

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

Christie has enlisted the help of her high school friends and othervolunteers. They campaign for the toys and games, gather them from thevarious 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 workof Operation Toy Box can allay anxiety of some of the children, as wellasa make it easier for their parents.

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

Volunteers are always welcome to help with Operation Toy Box. Call919-554-1410 to donate toys or money, or to help with toy clean-up orcollection.