Kaitlin Gunsolley is a go-getter. Even so, the jazz-dancing, flute-playing, 4.0 seventh-grader at Laguna Beach’s Thurston Middle School shines in October.
For the sixth year, she sets out this month to collect new Halloween costumes and new pajamas for the sick kids in CHOC Hospital, inspired by her own experience at age 6 when she was hospitalized for pneumonia during Halloween. She still remembers the disappointment of missing a chance to dress up and be with her friends. Nurses tried to make up for the loss by bringing young patients several costumes to choose from and allowed kids to collect treats throughout the hospital. Nurses would be at each station with a goody or surprise for each that came by. Some children who were too ill could not leave their room and were too sick to dress up.
The nurses’ thoughtful gesture became her inspiration.
The first year, Kaitlin and her brother Nolan saved their spending money, and he made signs and tried to sell things to raise money. Eventually, they decided to ask people to donate new costumes and local businesses helped by hosting drop-box locations. Soon the Gunsolley kids had well over 100 new costumes and 75 pairs of pajamas, as well as gift cards to places like Target, Walmart, and Kohl’s where they could buy additional costumes and pajamas.
They have continued this effort every year since. “It’s like a way to make the kindness keep going,” said Kaitlin, who recently won a “Kohl’s Cares” scholarship and was recognized as an “Everyday Hero” by the Orange County Register.
Kaitlin set up a drop-box at Laguna Beach’s police station and is collecting costumes and pajamas through Wednesday, Oct. 30. Every donor that leaves their information will receive a thank you card and update.