By Barb Arland-Fye
Shocked that kids her age had been hurt or killed in last month’s earthquake in Haiti, 11-year-old Makala Leach wanted to send them comfort via her stuffed animal collection.
But the Davenport girl’s grandfather, Glenn Leach, a volunteer in the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action Department, gently suggested that the Haitian children needed something else.
“She loved her animals and she thought that she could send her love as well as her animals that way. I had to explain to her that just then there were so many injured, sick and hungry that the priority was medicine, medical help, food and shelter,” Leach said. “I told her to think of other things she could do to raise money to get those essentials there. I suggested she could do extra chores that we would pay for or that perhaps she could sell some of her animals and send the money to Catholic Relief Services through our parish.”
Two days later, Makala, the daughter of Jeff and Misty Leach, had e-mailed St. Ann Parish in Long Grove to ask if she could exchange her stuffed animals for donations at church. The pastor, Msgr. Drake Shafer, said yes — even though the parish had already held two special collections for Catholic Relief Services the previous two weekends.
Makala, her 14-year-old sister, Madison, and their grandmother, Bernie Leach, set up tables in the Great Hall at St. Ann’s and arranged the 119 stuffed animals for donation after Masses the weekend of Jan. 30-31. Grandpa Leach helped out, too. They attached a sign to the tables that read: “Hugs 4 Haiti.”
“My goal was $100,” Makala explained of the fundraising effort. “Someone told me that $100 could make a house down there (in Haiti).” But the generous Mass-goers responded with $600 in donations — some of them didn’t even take a stuffed animal, Makala said.
Glenn Leach said he was impressed by “the generosity of the folks at the parish and the degree of compassion of our pastor, Msgr. Shafer. Immediately after the earthquake, he used a prayer for Haiti in his homily.
“The homily was focused upon our brothers and sisters who were in such tragic need. He provided copies of the prayer to everyone and asked that we make that our evening prayer for at least the following week. He then announced we would have two successive weekends of special collections for Haiti.
“My granddaughter’s initiative came on the third week, which says a lot for the generosity of the folks there. The same weekend as my granddaughter’s effort, the Cub Scout troop sold its remaining inventory of popcorn, devoting one-third of the profits to Haiti.”
Donations to Makala’s fundraising effort went beyond the parish. A man from Mount Pleasant, who had learned of her sale through her grandfather, offered to purchase one of the stuffed animals for $50.
She told her grandmother after the fundraiser that her cheeks hurt. When grandma asked why, Makala said, “I’ve never smiled so much. I couldn’t believe how much we made.”