A young girl with a big heart has found just the way to cheer up other kids stuck at home during the pandemic.
Chelsea Phaire, a 10-year-old from Danbury, Connecticut, has sent more than 1,500 children in homeless shelters and foster care homes art kits to give them something uplifting to do when they're feeling down.
The kits -- which include markers, crayons, paper, coloring books, colored pencils, and gel pens -- are sent to schools and shelters across the country as part of Chelsea's Charity, an organization founded by Chelsea and her parents.
"Since she was seven, she was begging me and her dad to start a charity," Candace Phaire, Chelsea's mom, told CNN.
"She was so persistent, every couple of months she would ask, 'Are we starting Chelsea's Charity yet?' When she was turning 10, she asked us again, and we decided it was time to go for it."
The rising 6th grader launched Chelsea's Charity on her birthday in August 2019, when she asked party guests to donate art supplies instead of getting her birthday gifts.
After her birthday party, Chelsea used the donations to send out her first 40 art kits to a homeless shelter in New York. The family then set up an Amazon wishlist full of art supplies. Every time they get enough donations, they pack up the kits and deliver them to kids in person.
In just the first five months, Chelsea and her mom sent out nearly 1,000 kits to children in homeless shelters, foster care homes, women's shelters, and schools impacted by gun violence.
Before the pandemic, Chelsea was able to travel with her mom across the country to meet the kids in-person, and even teaches them some of her favorite drawing tips.
Now, schools are closed, and social distancing precautions will not allow Chelsea to physically interact with the kids as much. Instead, she and her mom are mailing the kits.
Since March, when schools began to close, the family has sent over 1,500 kits to schools, shelters, and foster homes in 12 states across the US.
"I feel good inside knowing how happy they are when they get their art kits," Chelsea told CNN. "I have definitely grown as a person because of this. Now my dream is to meet every kid in the entire world and give them art. Who knows, maybe if we do that and then our kids do that, we'll have world peace!"
Helping traumatized children through art
When Chelsea was 8, she lost someone very close to her heart. Her swim instructor, who she said she considered family, was killed from gun violence in the middle of their swim season.
That was the moment art went from being Chelsea's hobby to her therapy.
Knowing that other children have also gone through trauma inspired Chelsea to help make art more accessible to help others cope with their feelings.
"Art therapy is being prescribed a lot more to support the mental health of young kids, especially those with social and emotional deficiencies," Phaire, who is an early childhood education professor and former teacher, told CNN.
"Now with Covid-19, a lot of kids in shelters and also children in foster homes might not have access to art supplies they usually find in school. It's also mental health awareness month, so that's definitely motivating us to ramp it up send even more kits."
With this year's added stress of a global pandemic and nationwide shutdown, it's more important than ever to make sure kids have ways to cope with the emotions that come with adjusting to today's new reality.
For kids in already stressful situations such as homelessness, this can be even more difficult.
One of the organizations that received art kits from Chelsea is James Storehouse, a non-profit that serves children in foster care "from cribs to college."
"When a child or youth enters foster care, they usually have no belongings of their own," Stacy DeWitt, James Storehouse executive director, told CNN. "It's been a great addition to be able to offer the art kits, so the children and youth have a creative outlet to process their emotions during this traumatic time in their lives."
She said the kits have also "been fantastic for foster parents who have children at home during the stay-at-home orders."
"It gives the children and teens a fun creative outlet to channel their energy because they can't be in the classroom right now. Chelsea's kits have been a blessing to many children in hard places and have brought them joy."
While it may take her a little bit longer to reach every kid in the world, thanks to Chelsea’s kindness, thousands of kids all over the country have at least one reason to smile.