By Thomas Vogel
About 300 people showed up, Sept. 2, on the 500 block of Hannah Avenue to support a collection for Hurricane Harvey survivors organized by 10-year-old Forest Parker Storey Novak, a fifth-grader at Grant-White Elementary School.
"It was bigger and larger than we ever expected," said Dan Novak, Storey's father on Sept. 5.
Novak said donations filled about nine 4-by-4-by-5-foot shipping pallets, including children's toys and clothing, toiletries, and diapers. On top of that, about $2,000 was also collected.
"A community really came together," Novak said. "It's great to see Forest Parkers roll up their sleeves. It was a lot of fun."
Local news outlets came out, including WGN-TV, which featured it in that evening's news broadcast.
Chief Enterprises, of Elmhurst, agreed to donate the cost of shipping everything down to Texas, Novak said. Chief's owner is married to a Forest Parker.
"Once we knew Chief was behind us, this thing really got wheels." Novak said, adding that people from as far as Niles came to drop off donations and the local dollar store that morning was full of Forest Parkers loading up on goods before heading over to the Novaks. They filled their own garage and a neighbor's with donations. One toiletry donation included hundreds of handwritten notes, Novak said, to "help put a smile on those people's faces when they open up" the packages.
The Forest Park Fire Department even showed up, riding a firetruck to drop off some donated clothing.
"We couldn't have done it without the neighbors who spent countless hours here," Novak said, noting that everything has been sorted and labeled. "Storey was in charge and running the show."
Local businesses Mohr Oil and H&R Towing also gave monetary donations, he said.
Plans for the Sept. 2 event started after the Novaks began to see images from Harvey's devastation last week.
"I am very sad to see all the damage the storms have caused and want to help," Storey wrote in a flier announcing the event, dubbed "Sponsor a Storey."
She has spent time with her extended family, including her grandparents, whom she calls Nana and Banana, in Beaumont and Galveston, Texas. Her father, Dan, is a Forest Park village commissioner.
"She has performed service hours in the past, and truly is a leader at heart with no fear, who wants to make a difference," Novak wrote in an email to the Review. "Watching the news unfold, she wanted to help and was thinking about those in need and said, 'What if it was us?'"
Novak said he and the rest of his family could not be prouder of Storey.
"There were tears shed, happy tears. It was great because people were able to make a difference."