Several people last night asked me why. Why am I doing a toy drive? What made me want to do this?
It’s simple, really. In the first light after Sandy, when I realized there were people losing their homes, I felt helpless. I was slow to get the news as I had no power myself. The first five days after the storm were spent with no tv and a very slow internet connection that wouldn’t let me load up news sites all the way. It was when we moved camp to my parents’ house and finally got to watch tv and check out the news that I was able to see the depth of the devastation. Sure, I had no power, my life was disrupted and I was displaced for almost two weeks but looking at what others were going through made me feel so helpless. I wanted to do something, but I had so little gas in my car (dumb move on my part not to fill up before a storm) I couldn’t even go wait on a gas line - if I could even find an open gas station.
And that’s when I started thinking, what can I do later? What would be needed from me in a week or so when my life hopefully got back to normal and other people were still struggling with the aftermath? It was when I looked at pictures of the Rockaways and saw one photo of a mother standing in front of her burned out house, four kids by her side that I knew. I wanted to do something for the kids. It’s hard enough for an adult to deal with the loss of a home and everything in it, imagine how it feels for a child. Everything that is comforting to them is gone.
I was leaving for vacation (one that had been planned a year ago) on November 9th so I made it a goal to get something started as soon as I got back. That’s when Leah hit me up to tell me she was organizing a blood drive in San Francisco. It made me think of the power that was within the internet to do something, to help people from across the country. What I thought would be a small toy drive I conducted at work turned into something else when I ran my idea by Leah. She was on board. We’d bring people from all over the world together to send some holiday cheer to kids who needed a little normalcy in their lives. Their whole entire lives were disrupted. Let’s try to un-disrupt their holidays while giving them back some of the things they may have lost in the storm.
I spent a good deal of my vacation exchanging ideas with Leah in email and we had the toy drive pretty fleshed out by the time I got back to New York. Leah brought Aaron and Michael on board and I recruited my sister Lisa to help me out on this end and Sacks for Sandy was born.
It’s the internet angle that fascinates me. I’ve done something like this before, when I collected school supplies for kids displaced by Katrina. That was a huge success thanks to the internet and back then I only had blogs to rely on to spread the word. Now there’s whole new network of social media sites that can be used to bring people together for a good cause.
We put the call out at about 5:00 yesterday. By 7:00 our goal had been halfway met and the Sacks for Sandy message had been reblogged, retweeted and shared on Facebook more times than I ever hoped it would be. The reaction was swift and positive and only one person I know of questioned the trustworthiness of Leah of and myself (which is a totally legitimate thing when you are dealing with strangers). And that’s what struck me - the no questions asked thing. How people just jumped in and gave and implored their friends to give without question. People bought gifts, donated money and offered to help wrap and distribute the presents. People from right here in the New York area who themselves were victims of Sandy and people from California, London, Texas, Canada…all over the place.
The internet indeed makes a large world small. And it makes doing a project like this so much easier and so very rewarding. It’s not just the giving to the kids and their families that warms my heart and makes me feel less helpless; it’s the fact that so many people instantly came together to support the drive that makes me believe my faith in humanity is not a misplaced faith.
We are up to 279 gifts purchased toward our goal of 500 (and $200 in donations). I’m confident we’ll meet our goal and more. There are a whole lot of empathetic, generous people out there who just want to do good.
I thank the internet for bringing us all together to do that. And I thank everyone who has given in any way to Sacks for Sandy, whether by buying a gift or helping us spread the word.