Sandy recovery: Girl’s blankets cover Staten Island with love

Six months after seeing the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy on television, 8-year-old Ella was compelled to respond to the needs of children and families struggling to recover.

By Chris Huber, and Laura Reinhardt, World Vision U.S.
Published April 3, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

When 8-year-old Ella LaVoie watched television footage of families suffering in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, all she wanted to do was help them.

“I felt really bad,” says Ella of Kent, Washington. “I was just thinking, what would it be like?”

Now, five months after Sandy’s deadly wrath, the child’s wish has come true by donating 200 new, handmade blankets to families across the nation whom she has never met.

“She wanted to help so badly,” says Ella’s mom, Nicole LaVoie.

After learning of the destruction wrought by the storm last October, Ella sprang to action, rallying friends and strangers alike to donate new and handmade blankets to Sandy survivors.

An overwhelming response

With the help of posters, Facebook promotion, and word of mouth, Ella’s plan radiated from her parents to friends and community members, and then to strangers.

Some gave cash, others purchased fabric during Black Friday sales, and many helped make the fleece blankets. Ella made 50 of the blankets on her own.

“People were just very overwhelmed and couldn’t believe a youngster wanted to help out so much,” her mom says. “[During Christmastime] they’re focused on ‘me, me, me.’ But all she was worried about was the families and people on the East Coast.”

In the hardest-hit places, like Staten Island, New York, many are struggling to meet everyday needs. They cling to the hope that life will someday return to normal.

“Staten Island is a forgotten borough,” says Pastor Thomas Cletus of United Church of Praise International Ministries. “My own community is a forgotten community.”

But not for Ella.

‘Never too small to make a big difference’

She donated the blankets at World Vision’s warehouse near Seattle around Christmastime. The organization then distributed them to Staten Island residents last month, along with other supplies like gloves, sweaters, hygiene products, and children’s toys.

“It just shows that you’re never too small to make a big difference,” says Reed Slattery, manager at World Vision’s Seattle-area warehouse. “It’s good to see family and community rally around her and support her.”

The act of compassion speaks to the pure motives of a child, “because us as adults, we just sometimes get desensitized,” Reed says.

Hearing others acknowledge their daughter’s giving heart gave Nicole and her husband, John, great joy.

Nicole says, “We both pray that she never grows out of wanting to help others.”

Three ways you can help

Thank God for Ella’s compassionate response. Pray that others would continue to remember and respond to those suffering from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, six months later.

Make a one-time donation to World Vision’s U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your contribution will help us respond quickly and effectively to emergencies that take place right here in the United States. Our warehouses are strategically located across the country to deploy relief items and assistance to areas where disasters occur.

Give monthly to support World Vision’s U.S. programs. Your monthly donation will help us reach even more children and communities in need right here in the United States over the long term.