Story and Photos by Stephen Walsh/American Red Cross
Abby is two years old. She’s energetic, positive and a lot of fun – the perfect way to be when you’re in an evacuation shelter.
The bubble-blowing toddler spent several nights at a Red Cross shelter at W.T. Brown Elementary School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with her three older siblings and mother after they were evacuated ahead of Hurricane Florence.
“She had the biggest personality of anyone in the shelter,” said volunteer Chelsey Griggs, who deployed from Minnesota’s Twin Cities Red Cross Chapter. “She would always come around the corner of the registration desk to say good morning to everybody.”
Abby’s family had been through this before, losing everything they had in Hurricane Matthew. This time, their Spring Lake home was spared.
The family helps at the shelter whenever they can.
Abby’s cheerful attitude was rewarded when Griggs gathered a bunch of discarded cot boxes and built a kiddie castle for the delighted guest. It was a perfect way to help the pint-sized princess pass the time. After all, life in a shelter can be pretty boring for little ones who aren’t surrounded by the comforts of home.
Abby’s face lit up at the sight of the box castle.
“Is that for me?” she asked.
Using plastic cups for the spires and filling the inside with a Red Cross blanket and toys, Griggs’ finishing touches were a tinfoil crown for Abby and a sign that read “Red Cross Castle.”
Even the local sheriff’s deputies got in on the fun, posing as guards in front of Abby’s castle door.
“At one point she didn’t want to let anybody else in so we told her the castle is like the Red Cross,” said Griggs. “We let everybody in.”