A couple of months before her 7th birthday, Angelyn Wade listened to a radio special on the magnitude-9 earthquake that struck northeastern Japan and unleashed a devastating tsunami on March 11, 2011.
Angelyn (pronounced AN-juh-lynn), then in first grade, was distraught. She thought about the children her age whose homes were destroyed and possessions lost. She went to her mother, Nikki Wade.
“I said, ‘Mom, is there something we could do for them?,’ ” Angelyn said. “I knew I could do something.”
She wanted to collect her toys, stuffed animals and other belongings and send them to Japan. Her mom, Nikki, told her that would be difficult. At her mother’s suggestion, Angelyn decided to raise money and send it to Japan.
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She made fliers and posted them around town. She sold her toys at a yard sale and asked friends and relatives to donate money instead of buying her birthday presents. Her efforts raised $500 for the American Red Cross in Boise, which sent it to Japan.
“That was really cool,” said Angelyn, now 11 and a sixth-grader at Heritage Middle School on North Meridian Road.
Angelyn met a young cancer patient, Lilyan King, who was 2 or 3. Angelyn said she felt sad when she learned that older children were picking on Lilyan, who lives in Meridian, because she had lost her hair after chemotherapy.
“I wanted to cut off my hair and give it to her for a wig,” she said.
Again, it wasn’t that easy. Instead, Angelyn had 12 inches of her hair cut. She donated it to Wigs for Kids, which provides hairpieces for young cancer victims. She collected pledges based on each inch of hair removed and sought other donations to help pay for some of the King family’s medical expenses.
Those efforts, in the fall and winter of 2012, raised about $7,000. A lot of the money came from people she didn’t know.
“It made me feel really good that people were willing to donate,” she said.
Thankfully, she said, Lilyan is now cancer-free and turned 6 in July. The Wade kids — Angelyn; sister Kaylee, 9; and brother Carter, 7 — took Lilyan to Roaring Springs Waterpark in Meridian to celebrate.
Angelyn organized a school carnival for another young cancer victim, Parma resident Gage Driskell, in August 2013. That money, too, went for medical expenses.
But Gage, who had cancerous tumors in his head in 2011, died from his cancer the following February after the carnival. He was 12.
“It was really hard on me, but I had only known him for a year. Others knew him a lot longer,” Angelyn said.
Nikki Wade thought that Gage’s death might slow her daughter’s passion to help, but if anything it made her more determined.
“Once the tears dried, she said, ‘Well, now, we need to keep going,’ so we said, ‘We’ll keep going with you,” Nikki Wade said. “And she does. She keeps going.”
In 2013, Angelyn was honored by Gov. Butch Otter with a Governor’s Brightest Star Award. It is given to individuals and groups working to improve the lives of children and families.
Angelyn said she was touched. “It surprised me that I was pretty much the only kid there,” she said.
Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd nominated the girl for the award.
“We just thought someone who is that aware of the needs of others around her needs to be held up as an example that we can all learn from,” de Weerd said. “She has a huge heart and doesn’t do it for recognition. She does it because that’s who she is.”
Brittany Amos, vice principal and fourth-grade teacher at Siena Elementary School in Meridian, has known Angelyn her entire life. She was college roommates with Nikki Wade at The College of Idaho and has remained close to the family.
While a student at Siena, Angelyn organized a jump-rope marathon, organized charity hot chocolate sales and encouraged fellow students to give up one gift at Christmas and donate the money to the Red Cross.
“She has a giant heart and cares so much about people,” Amos said. “I think she’s going to be a lifelong philanthropist.”
Angelyn has established a Facebook group, Angelyn’s Mission: Kids Can Help. She writes about her projects and posts photographs there.
Late last month, Angelyn, Kaylee, Carter and Nikki Wade wore yellow outfits to the FitOne 5k run sponsored by St. Luke’s Health System. The women wore yellow tutus. Carter wore a cape.
They wanted to wear gold clothing to show support for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, but yellow items were the closest they could find. They spoke to people along the route and explained their concerns about childhood cancer.
Asked whether she or her husband, Richard, gave Angelyn a nudge to start her on her mission to help others, Nikki Wade said her daughter started seeking ways to help on her own.
“When she came to us and said she wanted to help, how could we tell her no? We learned the best way to help understand and help with some of these things that really worry her is to let her find a way to help,” Nikki Wade said.
People sometimes ask Angelyn why she wants to help others. She has a ready reply.
“I tell them it doesn’t matter how small you are, you can make a difference,” she said.