Tears welled in Lourdes Hidalgo’s eyes when her 11-year-old daughter explained why she decided to give away dozens of toys to children she didn’t know.
“I always get what I want and I feel like I want to give kids more,” the young girl said.
When asked how she learned the importance of charity, Anastacia Aguilar, a fourth grader at De Escandon Elementary school in Edinburg, didn’t hesitate with her answer.
“My mom,” she said.
Hidalgo knew Anastacia was a bright, loving and generous girl, but she didn’t expect her own actions of volunteering were having any affect on her children.
“Wow. I mean words can’t even explain,” Hidalgo said. “I never thought in a million years I would be gifted with someone like her.”
Last week, Anastacia and her mother visited the Children’s Center at Renaissance in Edinburg to hand out dozens of toys, games and stuffed animals to the children on the fourth floor who were in the hospital for a variety of health reasons.
The toys had been donated by friends, family and members of the Christian Fellowship Church in McAllen, who attended Anastacia’s birthday party last month. The toy drive birthday party was all Anastacia’s idea.
“I said, ‘Well, I want a birthday party. I demand one.’ And (my mom was) like, ‘I’m not giving you nothing!’ And I was like, ‘No, Ma, I want to donate toys to kids.’ And she got all sad, like she started crying,” Anastacia said.
Hidalgo’s tears were that of gratitude that her daughter would be so thoughtful and open-hearted.
“I don’t know too many kids who are thinking like her,” the 28-year-old mother said. “And I couldn’t tell her, ‘Next time,’ because there might not be a next time. As long as I have her in this mindset now, I know we’ll be going a lot of places with it.”
Hidalgo, a mother of four, moved her family to Edinburg from Florida about two years ago. She said she has always tried to inspire her children to adopt a giving spirit.
“I read books and stuff, and I’ve always wanted to donate, but Mom told me (I was) too young. She wanted me to understand before I do,” Anastacia said. “I read this story about this boy, I think his name was Zach Bonner,” she said. “He was walking around and … he walked on his feet, like, 2,000 miles just to collect money for kids. He collected about $32,000.”
In 2010, Bonner, a young philanthropist, planned a trip he dubbed “March Across America,” and he walked 2,478 miles from Tampa, Fla. to Los Angeles. During the 178-day trek, Bonner handed out gift cards to homeless.
“I thought if he can make a difference, I can make a difference,” Anastacia said.
Her birthday party was a big blowout, which included a moon jump, a face painter, games, a mountain of toys and snow cones — all of which were donated.
All that Hidalgo had to pay for was the cake and some decorations — even the venue was offered for free.
Recently, Anastacia visited Estella’s House to donate more of her toys.
The nonprofit organization, in partnership with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo County, helps children who are victims of child abuse by giving them a safe environment in which to tell their story. The group then gives each child a toy afterward, so they’re always in need of donated toys.
“We have a big toy room that’s filled with toys … and they can pick a toy or a stuffed animal, and it’s our way of saying, ‘Thank you. And you’re very brave for doing this because it isn’t easy,’” said Kristy Meyer, the nonprofit’s community outreach coordinator.
The whole experience has already prompted the 11-year-old to plan her next philanthropic act.
“I haven’t told my mom, but I want to give shoes and dog food,” she said.
Anastacia wants to collect shoes to give to children in need in Mexico and Guatemala, and dog food for the Palm Valley Animal Shelter.
Aside from her new goals to raise money and give back, the fourth grader is also hoping she inspires other children to do the same.
For more information on Estrella’s House, visit www.cachidalgo.org.
For more information on Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, visit www.dhr-rgv.com