Eight-year-old Natalie Catey is on a mission to provide shoes for every orphan in Haiti. Her shoe drive last year netted 270 pairs and she’s not ready to stop.
It all started with a successful lemonade stand.
Natalie and her sister, Amanda, 6, split the $50 proceeds between two good causes – animals and orphans.
The Cateys learned of An Orphan’s Prayer (AOP) through friends who know the founders: Kelli and Chris Wilson, of Yorkville.
“Kelli came to the house after the lemonade stand,” Jennifer Catey said. “She was so thankful and it was great getting to know her. She left a CD with pictures and videos from their trips to Haiti to visit the orphans.”
After watching the video, Natalie decided the orphans needed shoes and she was determined to gather as many as possible. She grabbed a bin and labeled it: Changing the World One Step at a Time.
She started by gathering old shoes from her own closet and encouraging family members to do the same. At Christmas, her grandma’s choice to forego presents and have that money spent on shoes for the orphans really motivated Natalie and got the ball rolling, Jennifer Catey said.
Natalie said the video made her really sad and left her crying because, “they really needed a lot of help” and she noticed “the kids were working a lot instead of playing, which was really sad.”
The goal was to donate 100 pairs of shoes. In early June, Natalie’s family donated 270 pairs. Natalie views this donation as round one and is gearing up for another shoe drive.
“They just really need shoes. They get nails in their feet, they get splinters and they don’t have any way to get them out. I just want to help them and help protect their feet since they have so little,” she explained.
Natalie is accepting all shoes – both new and used. She prefers lightweight shoes like sandals and flip flops but Jennifer Catey said they will find a home for any pair of shoes donated.
Natalie’s goal is to “donate at least one pair of shoes for every kid there.”
In 2010, Kelli and Chris Wilson worked with the Global Orphan Project and realized their energy, love and funds were needed to help orphans in Haiti.
Wilson said they are supporting 62 orphans with food, clothing, medical care, education and hope. The cost is $30,000 – $50,000 per year. “We are committed to this, no matter what,” Wilson expressed.
AOP has been very successful with many people stepping up and really helping out, Wilson said.
On July 9, AOP’s celebrity golf outing, Dream Big, involved 18 celebrities including Bears legends Richard Dent and Jim McMahon.
AOP organizes a trip to Haiti twice each year. The next trip occurs over Thanksgiving and includes up to 22 people.
Wilson said of Natalie: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The Cateys are extremely giving people and they have worked hard to involve others, which is really important.”
“Natalie has been a blessing to us and has motivated others more than she realizes. She is also showing how children can help other children.”
Jennifer Catey said Natalie should get the credit but that the entire family is helping her get the job done. Natalie is the oldest of three children; sister Amanda, 6, and brother Ryan, 5.
“The work that Natalie is doing is God’s work. That’s truly what I believe she’s doing. You don’t see that drive to help others in all kids and she worked through the entire project and saw it through. It’s one of her gifts, doing this kind of work,” Jennifer Catey said.
To help Natalie achieve her goal, call Jennifer Catey at 630-844-2742 or email firstname.lastname@example.org