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Toys from tots: 5-year-old inspires others to donate to tornado victims

Photo: David McGregor <br> Five-year-old Orlando Gabino stands with boxes and bags of toys and basic life supplies collected at Kids 'R' Kids in Duluth on Friday. Gabino helped come up with the idea of a toy drive at the school in his Pre-K class last week after asking what kids were going to play with after the destruction of the tornadoes that ravaged the south in late April.

Photo: David McGregor
Five-year-old Orlando Gabino stands with boxes and bags of toys and basic life supplies collected at Kids 'R' Kids in Duluth on Friday. Gabino helped come up with the idea of a toy drive at the school in his Pre-K class last week after asking what kids were going to play with after the destruction of the tornadoes that ravaged the south in late April.

DULUTH — It’s not everyday a kid is willing to give up his toys.

So prekindergarten teacher Ashley Osterhaus was flabbergasted when one little student inspired his whole school to donate toys and treasures to the victims of last month’s tornadoes in Alabama.

When Osterhaus was taking out stuffed animals for a new unit at her Kids ’R’ Kids classroom in Duluth, 5-year-old Orlando Gabino was struck by how many toys the kids have to play with.

He asked if some of them could go to “the people who don’t have houses anymore.”

“We were watching it on the computer,” he said. “They (the school) kept getting more, so, can we give to other people?”

The shy student’s request quickly struck a chord throughout the school, and parents began bringing in toys, books, cloths, toothbrushes and anything they could spare for the tornado victims.

“It’s beyond words. Kids this age are self-centered. He’s all boy, and for someone like (Orlando) to say, ‘I don’t need this; can I give it to someone else?’ ...” Osterhaus said holding back tears. “The parents are excited. The kids are excited. ... and they all know it was because of their friend.”

Every day this week, the kids have been eager to come in each day and see the new wares, sorting them into a collection of boxes and bags near the door, Osterhaus said.

Assistant teacher Julie Nichols said Orlando’s desire to help has been inspirational.

“We want them to know that even though they are 5 years old, they can still make a difference in the world,” she said.

The Peachtree Industrial Boulevard location plans to continue to collect toys in the coming week, before taking them to Alabama.

Orlando hopes to go along, because those victims touched his heart even though he had never been there.

After his interview with a reporter and photo shoot, Orlando was still shy from all the attention his toy drive has brought. But the youngster whispered into Ms. Julie’s ear: “When I go to kindergarten, maybe I can tell them about it, and we can do this all over again.”