72ºF

Girl who gave up birthday presents to help foster kids gets special surprise

Eleven-year-old Hadley Gray decided to forgo birthday gifts so that she could help foster children in need.
Eleven-year-old Hadley Gray decided to forgo birthday gifts so that she could help foster children in need. (KPHO/KTVK)

Phoenix (KPHO/KTVK) -- She's a little girl with a big heart! Eleven-year-old Hadley Gray decided to forgo birthday gifts so that she could help foster children in need. And her kindness and selflessness earned her a very special birthday surprise.

Two years ago, Hadley asked people to make donations to local pet shelters instead of giving her gifts. This year, she is once again encouraging family and friends to give to others. "I was planning my birthday party and I looked in my room to see anything I would need or want, and there was nothing I needed or wanted," said Hadley.

She was inspired by the fact many foster children have to carry their personal belongings from home to home with nothing more than a garbage bag. She has coined the effort “Hadley’s Bags of Hope.”

Hadley has used this time in quarantine to gather as many supplies as possible, and she provided them to the Arizona Department of Child Safety during a mini birthday party. In total, she was able to collect almost 50 pieces of luggage, lots of duffel bags and backpacks, many stuffed animals, hygiene items and coloring books.

But Hadley got her own gift, when actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish joined her Zoom call and sang happy birthday to her. "The way you are supporting foster youth, and putting yourself out there and thinking of others before thinking of yourself? I think that is beautiful," said Haddish. "I'm so glad you are on this earth and I hope you're on this earth for 100 more years." Hadley loves the show “Kids Say The Darnedest Things” and she also loves the host, Haddish. She went online and read about Tiffany and how she and her siblings became foster kids.

Hadley is still collecting new or gently-used luggage, or money to help buy luggage. She is also gathering blankets, stuffed animals and youth oral hygiene items.

Those inspired by Hadley to help local foster children can learn more by visiting dcs.az.gov. There are currently more than 13,400 kids in the Arizona foster care system. With financial and emotional constraints increasing due to the pandemic, this population has been left even more vulnerable.