Veteran Organizes Toy Drive for Kids Affected by Kentucky Tornadoes

Veteran Organizes Toy Drive for Kids Affected by Kentucky Tornadoes

February 8, 2022 by By Cathy Stack

MAYFIELD, Kentucky―After witnessing the destruction caused by tornadoes in his Kentucky hometown this past December, kind hearted veteran Shawn Triplett felt compelled to help the youngest and most vulnerable victims of the storm. He conceived a brilliant idea to help children who had suddenly lost their homes, all their belongings and sense of security. With the help of enthusiastic volunteers, he organized a toy drive to bring a little normalcy and joy back into the children’s lives. 

Shawn and his family had taken refuge at a hotel outside Mayfield during the storm. The next morning, he learned from news reports that his town had been one of the hardest hit. He felt fortunate to escape the storm’s destructive path and, when he returned home, he experienced deep relief to find it still standing. He knew he was one of the lucky ones. 

He toured the debris-littered streets, shocked and dismayed by the devastation. He found historic buildings in the city center, such as the Legion Theatre, reduced to rubble. 

“I've been deployed three times, I've seen war zones, I've seen absolute destruction, and nothing compared to it,” said Shawn, a former Marine who served tour duties in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I mean, the whole town was just leveled.”

Shawn visited his town’s local shelter to see how he could assist. It saddened him to see all the devastated families affected by the catastrophic natural disaster. Families slept on cots, and many children had nothing but the clothes on their back. While non-profit groups supplied essentials, such as generators, food and water, Shawn wanted to do something to uplift the children’s spirits. 

He witnessed a heartbreaking moment as a mother consoled her 6-year-old son over the loss of the family’s Christmas celebration and gift exchange. At a time that marks many children’s most joyous time of year, the family had lost everything.

“I was going to give them back their Christmas. That was my mission,” Shawn said with determination.

After a restless night and some brainstorming, the idea came to him to start a toy drive for the town’s children. He immediately posted his request for financial donations on social media and the immediate response thrilled him. The next day, he went straight to Walmart and filled numerous carts with as many toys as the donation funds would buy. 

The day after that, he noticed a huge increase in donations. Someone had shared his post on Reddit and, soon, thousands of dollars poured in from generous donors all over the country. So, Shawn returned to the store again and again to purchase more toys. He purchased a wide range of toys that young boys and girls would enjoy, such as dolls, bikes, board games, backpacks, shoes, and stuffed animals. Walmart also generously provided a discount once they learned where the toys were going.  

"It just really blew my mind," Shawn shared. "The support has just been astronomical."

A group of volunteers helped Shawn with the enormous task of gift-wrapping and distributing thousands of toys to those in need. 

To distribute the toys, Shawn gleefully put on a red Santa suit and white beard and headed out to share the gifts with thousands of excited children. He and his team estimate that they gave away 20,000 toys that day. 

Shawn’s ongoing fundraiser has surpassed $95,000 to date, with all proceeds going to support the affected families as they rebuild their lives. More than 1,200 families have received funds from Shawn’s campaign.

PassItOn and The Foundation For A Better Life believe that Shawn Triplett, his generous donors and his many volunteers are true heroes. Their caring actions personify the value of Community. Their toy drive and fundraising campaign has brought laughter, smiles and a sense of joy back to families affected by the storm. The community’s show of support has brought some hope and light to families in their darkest hours. Please help us celebrate Shawn Triplett by sharing his heartwarming story. 

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Your Comments
Mary from Buchanan, MI FEBRUARY 9, 2022
What a beautiful story. And so thankful Shawn's own house is fine. He sure went above and beyond to bring love and joy and a sense of normalcy to the children, and their parents. God bless you Shawn.

Mare McAnany & Family from Philadelphia PA FEBRUARY 9, 2022
"Always Faithful", dear Marine. You personify what your heroic Military service to our country can lead to, even after returning to civilian life. These children & their Families will carry the memory & impact of your caring into their lives. We continue to be blessed when we learn of actions like yours. Those of us blessed enough to be family members of Military Veterans thank you from our deepest hearts. Our Country stays strong , with hope for the future because of young Veterans like you. Semper Fi, dear Marine Triplett. You, and your dedicated efforts will be remembered by many. To say THANK YOU for your service in the hellholes of Iraq & Afghanistan doesn't seem enough to offer. Our hope is that you know how much you are held in the hearts of many grateful Americans.

Lynise from Hilo, Hawai'i  FEBRUARY 8, 2022
Thank you Shawn for giving us the reason that hope truly makes a rainbow shine. God Bless your sincerity and your heart.

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