HOUSTON – One 13-year-old old has touched the hearts of hundreds of children who have been in her shoes as a foster child. Through the teen's nonprofit, she hopes to give the feeling of Christmas to hundreds of foster children for years to come.
"I am so thankful that I can bring joy to kids," said Kirstyn Jackson, a bright-eyed eighth-grader with a story unlike the typical American teenager.
Jackson was a foster child at the age of 5. She was under the care of child protective services after witnessing her mother's battle with drug addiction.
"One thing I remember was me and my sister pulling my mother out of the bathtub because she was overdosing on drugs and that was like really hard," she said.
But instead of letting this set her back, she was determined to help those who were also in the foster system. Jackson was placed with her grandmother, Velvet Philsot. At the age of 10, Jackson asked her grandmother if she could help foster children get an experience an act of kindness that also impacted her.
Texans player Jon Weeks and his wife, Amanda, had previously taken Jackson and several other children on a Christmas shopping spree. It was an event that Jackson said changed her life and fueled her mission to pay it forward.
"When she told me about it, 'I want to take 10 kids shopping,' Well, [I told her] 'Earn your money,' " Philsot said.
And, that is exactly what Jackson did.
"I cleaned up dog poop from my neighbors house; I cleaned my room; I cleaned my neighbors yard --and that's a lot of hard work. It really is!" she said laughing.
She earned $300, which was not quite enough to start a nonprofit. With the help or her grandmother, they created a video and a marketing campaign that turned her $300 in $8,300. That was three years ago.
With her grandmother's help, created Kirstyn's Krew, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps hundreds of foster children get the things they want and need during the holidays. Each child got $200 to spend on whatever they wanted and needed.
"They just get so excited," Philsot said. "We make sure they just get something that they really want. We have a lot of kids because they are in the foster, system and it kind of breaks your heart when you see they need things like warm shoes."
"In the last three years, we've helped 300 kids and raised over $60,000," Jackson said.
Thursday, Jackson shared her story at the Junior League of Houston for a fundraiser for the Harris County Children's Protective Services. Jackson was alongside others who have had an impact to help the Harris County Protective Services and foster children including, "Mattress Mack," KPRC's Dominique Sachse who emceed the event and KPRC's chief meteorologist Frank Billingsley who spoke about his book, "Swabbed & Found", talking about his experience as a foster child in search of his parents and family.
"I am a visionary and advocate of children in foster care," Jackson said, addressing a crowd of more than a hundred community leaders and supporters of HPCS.
Jackson "rolls really from trauma to triumph which is what this event is really all about," said Estella Olguin, with Harris County Protective Services.
Jackson said this year, Kirstyn's Krew hopes to help 120-150 foster children get the things they need during the holidays.
"I want them to know there's always someone that cares," she said.
For more information on how you can help, visit www.kirstynskrew.net.