Girl raises $62,000 for care home residents

Ruby Kate with a residentImage copyright
Beth Ann Crenshaw

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Ruby Kate, 11, has raised more than £48,000 to buy things for care home residents

Ruby Kate Chitsey, 11, spends a lot of time at the care home in Arkansas where her mother works as a nurse. She enjoys talking to the residents.

When the 11-year-old found out that one of them could not afford the $12 (£9) for their pet dog to visit, Ruby Kate knew she had to take action.

She found a notepad left over from school and asked the residents one question: “If I could bring you three things in the whole world, what would those be?”

Amanda, Ruby Kate’s mum, told the BBC that residents “didn’t want anything big”. Rather they requested “fresh fruit”, “haircuts” and “snacks”.

After setting up a GoFundMe page, Ruby Kate’s “three wishes” project has raised more than $62,000 (£47,000) to provide the things that “make life sweeter” for elderly people.

Ruby Kate told the BBC that she knows some people “have very little” and she “just wanted to help them”.

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Ruby Kate Chitsey

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Ruby Kate made a note of residents’ requests in her notepad

The project received a boost when Ruby Kate was nominated as “Kid Hero” by GoFundMe.

Amanda says it “humbled” her to hear what the people she cared for wanted.

“I have been working in this field for 25 years, and you get used to caring for people’s medical needs, but you can forget about the need for joy,” she said.

“I have known one resident for 18 years. He asked for some pants that fit him properly. It broke me that I hadn’t realised.”

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Amanda thinks that people are too willing to accept the inevitability that poorer old people will not be able to access these things, “but it took a child to see that it’s not OK”.

She hopes that the attention that Ruby Kate’s kindness has attracted will “shine a spotlight” on the funding gap faced by some elderly people.

“Medicaid [the US health programme} looks after room and board, and that is great. But they only get $40 a month for everything else. The assumption is that family members will step in to provide money to help them. That just isn’t happening.”

When her daughter told her about the project, Amanda said she “wasn’t at all surprised”.

“She is a normal kid in most ways, but her ability to care for others is so mature. I have always been proud of her.”

Ruby Kate said that she has been “amazed” by the reaction, and “overjoyed” the project has been so successful.

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Amanda Chitsey

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Marilyn Spurlock, 74, has become involved with Ruby Kate’s project

Marilyn Spurlock, 74, has lived in a nursing home for eight years, and is described as the “eyes and ears” of the project by Amanda.

“Every day that goes by, I get a little more excited,” Spurlock told CNN. “I go out into the hub – the areas where people sit. I look and talk to them and ask if there’s anything they need.”

Amanda says that she became emotional when Marilyn told her that being busy and “treated like a normal person” had restored her “self-worth”.

And what is Ruby Kate’s message to other 11-year-olds?

“Don’t let anything hold you back. If helping out helps you or someone else – just do it.”

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