By Christopher Dawson, CNN
(CNN) — We all perk up and pay attention when we overhear our name in a conversation. Four-year-old Florence started hearing hers everywhere, including on the TV.
And they weren’t using her nickname Flo, but her full name: Florence. That usually meant she was in trouble.
Her mom Tricia Wisniewski explained to Flo that everyone was talking about a hurricane named Florence, and showed her pictures of the storm — flooded neighborhoods and people in shelters.
“I showed her one picture of a family staying in a high school hallway and told her this is all they have, here in the hallway with their baby,” Wisniewski told CNN. “Flo said matter-of-factly that we should send them diapers or toys, like that was just common sense!”
Wisniewski’s husband, Paul, made a donation sign, showing the hurricane’s path but with Flo’s face over the spiraling clouds. The two shared a name, but the smaller Florence wanted to help, not scare, people.
So, Flo went door-to-door with her wagon and sign, telling neighbors there would be a bucket on their front porch for donations. She also took a donation box to her school.
A fundraising campaign is born
“I thought that would be it. We would fill a few boxes and Florence would feel good about her name,” Wisniewski said. “But a Facebook post got around and then the local news got involved, and now we are getting donations from around the country.”
The family’s two-car garage now brims with donations, with more arriving each day. Flo’s parents were at a loss on how to get all of these goods from their Chicago home to the people who needed them.
They were new to running a charity drive and felt overwhelmed. But little Flo was unfazed.
“This little girl stirred up something in everybody. She just wants to help people and just thinks that it is normal. And it could be,” Wisniewski told CNN.
Inspired by her daughter’s enthusiasm, Wisniewski partnered with the nonprofit Mathew 25 Ministries in Ohio, which will add Flo’s donations to a semi-truck delivering supplies to the Carolinas.
A teachable moment becomes a larger lesson The donation drive overshadowed Florence’s 5th birthday last Friday. She did receive some packing tape, which she immediately put to use.
“She’s now in the midst of sorting everything. She is not just a pretty face of the campaign. She is an active member,” Tricia said.
Her daughter is happy with the new “family project” and the gifts hurricane victims will soon be receiving. Her birthday can wait.
The proud mother had hoped Flo’s campaign would be a teachable moment for her daughter about helping others. But as the donations poured in, that moment became a larger lesson, and a storm of goodwill in its own right.
“To see all of these people donating and supporting her and giving her high fives, it has taught me that there are plenty of good people out there.”
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