When Arizona fifth-grader Hadley Gray found out that many foster children have to carry their belongings with them from home to home in a garbage bag, she was shocked and saddened. For her 11th birthday—wanting to make a difference in the lives of local foster children—Hadley asked for friends and family to donate necessary items like backpacks and personal care supplies to local foster children instead of birthday gifts.
When Hadley delivered the supples to the Arizona Department of Child Safety, she was surprised with a party and a Zoom “Happy Birthday” sing along featuring actor and comedian Tiffany Haddish. Haddish, who had been a child in the foster case system, wanted to thank her for making a difference for kids. The whole birthday surprise and singalong was orchestrated by the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
“At first, when everyone was singing happy birthday, I didn’t know who all was there on the screen. When Tiffany started going off singing, I was looking at all of the faces on the screen and trying to see who it was. In the excitement, I couldn’t really focus or know whose voice it was. Then I saw her. It took a moment to process, but then I was really excited and in shock,” Hadley told Tank’s Good News.
Earlier, Hadley learned that Haddish had been in foster care, separated from her siblings and forced to carry her belongings in a garbage bag, after watching ABC’s “Kids Say the Darnedest Things,” in which Haddish was the host. Haddish’s story inspired Hadley to begin collecting supplies for Arizona foster youth.
“After I read Tiffany Haddish’s story on the internet, I was inspired to help because of what she’s been through and what she did to help. She also collected luggage for foster kids. She said that when she was in foster care, she had to use a garbage bag to take her things from home to home and it made her feel worthless,” Hadley said.
Hadley’s parents explained that their daughter has been concerned about injustice ever since she was a little girl.
“The biggest thing we’ve noticed with Hadley is her concern about fairness. Fairness and kindness go hand-in-hand for her. She asks, ‘Why do I get things that another kid doesn’t have?’ She’s had this sense of fairness ever since she was little,” Hadley’s mom and dad explained.
Hadley began collecting supplies in December, acquiring more than 60 pieces of luggage, two large bins of duffel bags and backpacks, stuffed animals, coloring books, and hygiene items.
“Most of the donations came from family, friends, and friends of friends. She also received donations from the community. The Starbucks at our local Fry’s (grocery store) reached out to their Facebook community asking for donations, and a cashier at the same Fry’s donated because she was personally touched by what Hadley was doing. Her granddaughter had been placed with an amazing foster family because her own daughter had struggled to take care of her,” Hadley’s parents said.
This isn’t the first time Hadley has donated items to those in need. On her 9th birthday, Hadley also rejected birthday gifts in favor of giving to the homeless and animal shelters:
“On my 9th birthday, I donated clothes, hygiene items and other stuff to the homeless. I was originally only going to collect things for the homeless, but I learned that pet shelters don’t always have what they need for the animals, so I also donated pet food and other items to animal shelters. I love animals!”
“Hadley doesn’t like it when people are sad,” her parents said. “She tries to do what she can and feels like she can to bring some joy into people’s lives.”
If you want to contribute to Hadley’s mission, you can email [email protected]