2009 YOUTH AWARD
Ashlee’s Toy Closet
Ashlee Smith learned firsthand how hard it is to be a child who loses everything when she lost her family home to a fire at the age of six. After her firefighter father battled a Lake Tahoe fire that destroyed more than two hundred homes, Ashlee decided to take action and create Ashlee’s Toy Closet.
At just eight years old she established the nonprofit organization, which now collects, distributes and donates toys all over the country to children affected by natural disasters, fires, floods or harsh economic conditions. Ashlee is highly motivated to attract and distribute donations, and actively partners with local fire departments, police, and ambulances to supply them with stuffed animals for scared or injured children. She donates stuffed animals to the local Special Kids Rodeo for physically and mentally challenged children, provides local foster families with toys in her Reno, Nevada community, and “adopts” hundreds of children and families during Christmas time.
Ashlee has sent toys to thousands of children all over the country and is now branching out internationally as well. Today she is becoming a well known young leader for actively engaging in what she calls “turning kids’ frowns upside down!”