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Kids have the power to help others and I have 20,000 socks to prove it

10 Oct 2013 – 08:24 AM EDT

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My daughter came to me from the foster care system when she was nine years old. Now that she is 12 and adopted, it’s important to her that she help others.

Last summer she told me she was so happy I didn’t make her buy plain white socks for school. She said that’s all she had as a foster child and it made her feel really different from the kids with brightly colored socks in funky patterns or with cartoon characters.

She asked if we could buy some colorful socks to donate to foster kids. I said, “Yes, of course, absolutely!” and had her pick out a few packages for us to drop off at a local children’s shelter.

She wanted to collect more. I put the word out on my personal Facebook page. The response was huge. At my friend’s urging, I created a separate page just for the socks collection. My daughter dubbed it “Socks for Smiles.”

It spread like wildfire. So many people shared the page that there were over 200 “likes” by the next morning.

Then the socks started pouring in.

My daughter recruited her friends to help her count, sort, and package the socks for distribution. Then they lugged the heavy boxes from the car into the delivery location.

Over the course of about six months, over 20,000 pairs of brightly colored socks for foster kids arrived from strangers all over the United States. We supplied socks to all the foster care organizations, homeless shelters, and schools in at-risk neighborhoods in a four-county area.

In fact, the response got too big for us to handle on our own, so we switched the focus from collecting socks ourselves to researching organizations in other areas for donors in to give socks to directly.

My daughter beamed every time she heard of someone being inspired to help a foster child because of her sock drive. She saw that she could make a difference.

Children who help others develop compassion, tolerance, and responsibility. It also strengthens children’s sense of community and teaches them time management and organizational skills that will benefit them in school and throughout life.

Here are some quick and easy acts of kindness that can get children involved in community service:

  • Pick flowers for a neighbor.
  • Make an older relative a cup of tea.
  • Donate unwanted toys to those less fortunate.
  • Send letters to those serving in the military overseas.
  • Sort books at the library.
  • Stuff envelopes for a nonprofit organization.
  • Bake cookies for a sick friend.

How do you get your kids involved helping others?