Girl, 7, collects shoes for needy

Instead of asking for gifts for her birthday, Maddy Colatruglio wanted new shoes for children who needed them for school.

Maddy, the 7-year-old behind the Relay for Life team Maddy’s Heart, has collected more than 40 pairs of shoes to be distributed to Tiffin students who need them.

Maddy asked her great-grandmother for a pair of shoes for her birthday to give to a child who didn’t have any, Maddy and her mother, Jamie Colatruglio, said.

“She asked all of her family and friends when they came to her birthday, instead of getting presents, if they could bring shoes,” Colatruglio said.

She said Big Boy has also gotten involved.

“They put up a sign, and on her birthday, they brought out a big bucket of shoes,” she said. “(Maddy) ended up with almost 40 pairs of shoes just for her birthday.”

Colatruglio said they contacted the United Way to figure out the best way to use the shoes so the greatest number of kids could benefit from the project. The United Way suggested Maddy help with the school supplies distribution at First Call for Help and Tiffin Community YMCA.

In addition to her donations, the organization received a grant.

“They decided to ask for a grant from National Machinery so that every child that is in need will have a new pair of shoes to go back to school with this year,” Colatruglio said.

The donated shoes are available for students ages 5 to 13 who are eligible for the book bag donation. If none of the shoes fit, they will be given a voucher to go to Shoe Sensation and get a pair there, through the $2,000 National Machinery grant.

“I’m sure they went with the idea of how many kids would need shoes,” she said. “They are positive that each child that is eligible will get a pair, and that made us quite happy.”

Maddy said that Maddy’s Heart started when she found out that a girl at her school had leukemia. That, along with her grandmother’s breast cancer, fueled the start of her project.

After school, she went to her mother and grandmother and said she wanted to start a Relay For Life team.

Colatruglio said that they had walked with a team in support of a friend who had cancer prior to her creation of her own team.

This year, Colatruglio said that they raised $8,000. Maddy is planning to do an annual carnival at Hedges-Boyer Park to raise money for her team. At the event this year, she raised more than $3,000 at the carnival.

“That’s something we were planning to do again and something that she really enjoyed,” Colatruglio said.

Colatruglio never thought that her daughter’s idea would grow into something as big as it is today.

“When we started the Relay for Life team, we had contacted (income development coordinator for the Northwest Ohio American Cancer Society) Deb Hillborn and said she may raise a couple hundred dollars,” she said. “Never did we imagine that $8,000 later, it would be such a big project.”

She also said the project has gone worldwide. “Someone’s wearing a Maddy’s Heart shirt in all 50 states and eight countries,” Colatruglio said.

Maddy plans on new shirts for this year and is expanding the design to include different color cancer ribbons. The Relay for Life year begins Sept. 1, and Maddy’s Heart will collect money until the relay in May. She also plans her carnival for April.

Maddy also makes packages for children who have cancer and has received donations from the Optimist Club and Kiwanis Club.

“With the donations we received from Kiwanis and Optimist clubs, she sent out over 16 packages,” she said. “She wants to continue to do that.”

Big Boy has been a supporter as well, even sponsoring a Maddy’s Heart week and raising money for her Relay team.

Maddy also raised $380 at her bake sale selling cancer ribbon cookies.

“I sold all of them,” Maddy said.

Colatruglio said Maddy has had much support from her family, classmates and the community.

“It’s been really neat,” Colatruglio said. “The whole community has gotten behind her on it.”

Maddy has goals in addition to completing more projects with her Relay for Life team.

“I want to be like Deb (Hillborn),” Maddy said.

With this experience behind her, her mother is optimistic for her future.

“‘Little people can do big things’ has become her motto,” Colatruglio said.

Backpacks filled with supplies are to be distributed 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. New shoes can be dropped off at Tiffin-Seneca United Way, 201 S. Washington St., or at the Tiffin Community YMCA until Friday.