News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 15, 2010

Wyatt Jones, 8, collecting toys to send to children in Haiti

TERRE HAUTE — A Vigo County third-grader will soon be making a big difference in the lives of hundreds of needy children in Haiti.

Wyatt Jones, 8, of Rio Grande Elementary School got an idea to help Haitian children recently while watching the Disney Channel. He saw a public service announcement about needy kids in Haiti and wanted to do something about it, he said.

At first, Wyatt wanted to send just one stuffed toy to Haiti. Then he decided to ask friends, family and fellow students at Rio Grande to help out. The result is hundreds of new stuffed animals and toys that will soon be handed to children living in orphanages in Haiti.

The magnitude-7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti in January left tens of thousands of children without surviving parents, according to the Associated Press. Even before the quake, an estimated 380,000 Haitian children lived in orphanages or group homes in the Caribbean country, the AP reported.

“I’m very proud of him for coming up with something like this on his own,” said Kim Jones, Wyatt’s mother. Wyatt’s goal is to eventually collect 1,000 stuffed animals for Haitian kids, she said.

As of Monday, Wyatt had received 420 stuffed animals, he said. About half of the donations came from fellow students at Rio Grande. The other half was donated by friends, family and by Wyatt himself, Kim Jones said.

The donated toys include Beanie Babies, large stuffed animals and even Marvin the Martian from Bugs Bunny cartoons.

The stuffed toys collected so far will be delivered to Haiti later this week aboard an aircraft used by Seedline International, said Rose Aycock, executive director of all-volunteer Covenant Cooperative Ministry in Terre Haute. Additional toy shipments will take place at two-week intervals, she said.

Covenant Ministry has already provided about 21⁄2 tons of donated supplies to Haiti, Aycock said.

Mary Ruth, Wyatt’s grandmother, said the pilot of the Seedline aircraft is – just by chance – a friend of the Jones family. The friend has agreed to deliver a photograph of Wyatt to the Haitian orphanage and plans to bring back photos of the Haitian children with the stuffed toys, Ruth said.

Anyone wishing to donate a new stuffed toy for Wyatt’s “Stuffed with Love” collection for Haiti can drop off the toys at Covenant Cooperative Ministry at 122 S. 101⁄2 Street in Terre Haute. To make a donation or for more information, e-mail Kim Jones at ktw624@yahoo.com.

“People of Haiti, I hope you like these toys,” Wyatt Jones said Monday when asked what he would like to tell children in Haiti who receive the stuffed animals.

And what does he hope the toys provide? “Happiness,” he said.

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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