Anna Richey, 16, of Paris, Ark., a sophomore at Paris High School, organizes an annual community “tea party” that has collected more than $100,000 in gifts and donations over the past four years to brighten the Christmas season for foster children. Anna became interested in helping foster kids after four of her cousins were taken from their home and placed in foster homes throughout Arkansas. “They felt very scared and alone,” she said. When Anna and her sisters learned how many children were in the same situation, they resolved to do something to help. “We decided that no matter what the circumstances, all kids should have smiles on Christmas morning,” she said.
The Richey sisters hosted a holiday tea party at their house and invited friends to bring gifts for foster children. Each successive year their party grew bigger, so four years ago, they made it a public event, moved it to a local community center and invited all the elementary school girls in their area. After her older sister graduated from high school, Anna assumed overall responsibility for running the party, overseeing publicity, volunteer recruitment, donation collection, and event logistics. The 2016 party alone drew more than 300 attendees and collected nearly $28,000 in gifts for 120 foster kids. Anna notes that the party also serves to make her whole community aware of the “desperate need” to improve the lives of children in foster care.