From the staff

Column: Gabby’s gift is helping others get footwear

sspring@newsobserver.comMarch 28, 2013 

Gabby Sardiello with some of the shoes that she has collected. Instead of presents for her birthday, she wanted people to donate shoes for the needy.

COURTESY OF LORRIE SARDIELLO

Inspired by a segment on the Disney Channel that she saw while visiting her grandparents in New York, Gabby Sardiello of Apex decided that she really didn’t need any gifts for her ninth birthday.

Instead, she wanted to help children in need. Gabby announced to her parents that she wanted to collect and donate shoes to those less fortunate. So for her sleepover birthday party, her guests were asked to bring gently-used shoes that could be donated to children in Haiti, New York and other places.

No gifts for Gabby, please.

Gabby set a reasonable goal – collect 100 pairs of shoes. But she realized that she would not reach her 100 pair goal with just the donations from her party.

Resourceful and determined, Gabby asked her mom if she could make a video and post it on Facebook. Mom agreed.

Saying that it worked would be an understatement.

Over the past five months, Gabby has received shoes shipped from Florida and New York, as well as money with which to buy some brand new ones from California and Florida.

To date, she has collected hundreds of pairs of shoes. One of her mom’s colleagues pitched in by coordinating a weeklong donation drive at Leesville Road Elementary School, which added 92 pairs to the collection.

Gabby’s mother, Lorrie, told my by phone today that a pile of more than 250 pairs of shoes adorns her home.

Gaining confidence

Lorrie describes her daughter as a jokester who people like to be around. This project has transformed Gabby. She now has reached a new a level of self-confidence. And she developed an amazing passion for helping others.

This project is only the beginning. Gabby races home after school to see what new deliveries await her.

“It is amazing that Gabby truly gets it that it is better to give than receive,” Lorrie said.

Evenings are spent rubber-banding pairs of shoes together, then packing them in boxes that mom and dad have been squirreling from their workplaces.

Lorrie has found that it is more challenging to find donation sites than it has been to collect shoes. Gabby wants to donate to places that will reach as many children as possible, Haiti and New York topping her list.

Gabby will warm the feet of close to 400 children.

And she has already warmed more than that many hearts.

If you want to help, contact me and I will get your contact information to Gabby.

Susan Spring is newsroom administration manager.

sspring@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4860

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