“This is the best birthday I’ve ever had!”
When little Giselle Torres’ family was told to evacuate Sunday night, a birthday party was the farthest thing from their minds. Instead, they were afraid and confused. What did the future hold for them? Where would they go? The Torres family found safety and comfort at the California State Fairgrounds where the Red Cross is managing a shelter. There, they were greeted by friendly volunteers and given a sense of safety and relief.
But what of their daughter, Giselle? Her birthday was only a few days away. What could possibly be done? It wasn’t long before word got out among the Red Cross kitchen staff that a little girl was going to miss her birthday because of this evacuation. These Red Cross volunteers were NOT going to let that happen!
They started a small collection to purchase gifts and a cake. Then word spread. Kathleen Brown, another evacuee at the shelter, also wanted to help. She made calls and before long, a plan was in the works. It wasn’t long before Sacramento Deputy Sheriff Joe Gordon and Kenny Alvarado were collecting enough toys and games for not only Gizelle, for all 17 children at the shelter.
“I don’t have kids of my own, but this is great,” Deputy Gordon remarked as he helped Giselle select just the right gift. “This has made my day!” But the surprises were just beginning.
It was lunch time and while everyone was eating, the volunteers brought out the cake with candles blazing and presents overflowing. It was a complete surprise. Her family was stunned. They had no hint that behind the scenes, many hands were at work to make this little girl’s birthday memorable and a wish come true.
“All this just warms my heart,” gushed Red Cross Volunteer Lori Nichols. “The folks staying with us here feel empowered. They are hopeful and want to give back. They are lifting all our spirits!”
Gizelle’s mother agrees, “We were so worried before. Today, we are happy. I’m happy because my children are happy. We are so grateful. Thank you so much, Red Cross.”
Story by Michele Maki, American Red Cross