WOODRIDGE – When 7-year-old Layla Topete told her parents she wanted to help out sick children at the expense of birthday presents for the Woodridge girl, they weren’t too surprised.
“Over summer she saw something on TV about someone who had helped an orphanage in lieu of getting birthday gifts,” Topete said. “She said to me and my husband ‘I don’t want or need any presents, I want to do something to help sick kids.’”
Layla’s parents, Amie and Rey, were incredibly proud of their daughter but not surprised by the act of kindness, according to Topete. She said this is just Layla’s personality.
“She came up with it on her own and pushed me to follow through with it,” Amie Topete said.
As Layla’s birthday on Oct. 24 approached, she asked her mom to find a local group to donate to.
“I wanted to find somewhere that wasn’t just looking for monetary donations,” she said. “I searched a bunch and found Almost Home Kids.”
Almost Home Kids in Naperville provides transitional care for children in serious medical situations or who require lifelong care. The group gives children home-like care for up to 90 days while their families learn proper care techniques, according to Topete.
Once she found AHK, she sent out birthday invitations with a letter explaining Layla’s donation idea and the organization’s wish list, which consists of paper towels, sanitizer, diapers, children’s books, DVDs, Wii games and more.
“The response was overwhelming,” Topete said. “It was just awesome … We had my car absolutely packed.”
The donations – more than $800 worth – were delivered to AHK in early November.
Layla, who attends first grade at Oakwood Elementary School in Lemont, hopes to inspire other kids her age.
“I was just spreading the word so everyone could know,” Layla said. “My favorite part was delivering everything and meeting all the children. It made me feel really happy and excited.”
Finding Almost Home Kids was a perfect fit for Topete’s “philanthropist in the making.”
“It’s just a ‘Layla’ thing to do,” the mother said. “There are some things you can’t teach your kids and she was born with that little something extra.”
Get to know Layla
Family: Mom and dad, Amie and Rey Topete; siblings, Evangeline, 4 1/2 and Elijah, 2.
Pets: Family dog, Rylie
Hobbies: Movies and popcorn, music and swimming in the summer