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State Honoree

Hadley Gray

Surprise, Arizona

Hadley Gray, 11, of Surprise, Arizona, a sixth-grader at Paradise Honors Elementary School, asked for donations instead of gifts for her ninth birthday to support local homeless and pet shelters, and two birthdays later, collected more than 100 pieces of luggage for children in foster care. Hadley began volunteering at age 5 by helping her mother organize 5K races for kids with cancer. She said she had so much fun that as she got older, she wanted to start her own service projects.

Last year, Hadley learned that many children in foster care have to use garbage bags to carry their personal belongings when they move between homes. “This really affected me,” she said. “The thought of those poor kids carrying their prized possessions like garbage was heartbreaking.” She recalled how successful her ninth birthday had been, and decided to conduct another donation drive for her 11th birthday. Only this time she would collect luggage for foster kids. To start, she distributed fliers, made a video for social media, posted signs at her school, and persuaded a local coffee shop to promote her effort and serve as a dropoff site. Since some people donated money instead of luggage, Hadley purchased additional duffel bags along with hygiene items, coloring books, crayons and a “ton” of stuffed animals to accompany the 100+ pieces of luggage that she ended up delivering to the Maricopa County Department of Child Safety.