After her home burned down in July 2012, Lauren Hontz of Severn, MD, found that the thing she yearned for most was the blanket from her bed. “It’s the small stuff I really missed,” she recalls. “Having those things helps you get back to some kind of normal.” Although her family lost everything in the fire, Lauren was so inspired to help other young fire victims that within six weeks, she’d founded a charity, Lauren’s Luggage, to do it.
With her mom’s help, Lauren started stuffing suitcases with essentials (like toothbrushes) and small kid comforts that are often overlooked: games, books, and blankets. “The little things matter,” she explains.
Each item is either donated or purchased with donations. (A local school spearheaded a supply drive and Lauren constantly receives offerings from people who have heard her story.) Lauren organizes them all in her family’s new home.
So far, fire departments and burn centers have delivered Lauren’s packages to more than 120 families in five states. One moment she won’t forget: watching a toddler open a suitcase and joyfully cuddle the stuffed animal inside.
Still topping Lauren’s donation wish list: crayons and markers. Often, craft supplies are the first items that kids request. As Lauren notes, “Making art is a really good way to express your emotions.” And she’s determined to help children heal.
DONATE at Laurensluggage.com.