Seven tornados tore through eastern North Carolina on April 25. One tornado that later received an EF3 designation, damaged or destroyed almost 200 homes, injured 16 people, and claimed the life of 11-month-old Gavin Soto. For many in the area, this was their first experience with the deadly natural disaster.
"My wife and I were huddled in what used to be our basement," Justin Reynolds explained. "Luckily our daughter wasn't with us."
Her toys, which 11-year-old Katelyn loved as much as any other child does, weren't so lucky. A shed full of the family's belongings was flung into the nearby canal during the storm. Almost all of Katelyn's toys were inside the shed.
"A week before, I just got a new baby doll that was my favorite," she said. "But I'm grateful my parents made it out."
The Salvation Army is known most during the holiday season, providing Christmas dinners, clothing and toys for families in need. However, the organization provides critical assistance for those experiencing a crisis throughout the entire year. This also includes natural disasters which The Salvation Army has responded to since 1900. A hurricane virtually destroyed Galveston, TX and killed over 5,000 of its residents. The Salvation Army provided food, drinks and emotional and spiritual care to the survivors. These same services are offered today.
Katelyn showed Lieutenant Goldie Rabon her toys when the officer was serving lunch to the family. Rabon being a mother herself, knew she had to do something more. "We may not be able to replace their home, but buying a few gifts for Katelyn to replace some of the toys she lost might make an unbearable situation a little bit easier," she said.
The following day, The Salvation showed up at the home with a large wrapped present. New baby dolls, crafts, and various other toys were inside. Katelyn tore the wrapping paper off and picked up each toy with glee.
"It's something to look forward to," her dad said. "It means a lot."