Mikayla Darnall's experience in her own words:
I have never once in my life struggled to meet my needs. I have grown up in a family where if there is something you need, you ask for it and it is given to you. When I was younger I didn't really understand the concept of being poor. I knew we collected toys for people to have Christmas presents, but I figured that was just something extra. I never knew that there were kids, kids in my community, who couldn't afford to buy shampoo. Even after my mother told me about the e-mail she received from Glenda Byers (a family friend who works at Youth Service Center) asking for teachers to bring in any personal items they could spare, I was shocked. How could this have been happening in my community without me knowing? I asked myself this question so many times, and finally decided that it didn't matter if I had known about it before. What mattered was that I was determined to do everything in my power to assure that every kid in my county had the personal items they needed to live a healthy and happy life. I decided to start taking up items at church and at the Austin Auction House (my step-father and mom's business).
Starting the project proved to be pretty simple. I announced at church and at the auction house that we would be taking up personal items and that the deadline would be announced at a later date. At first I didn't really expect much participation. I had been involved in many charity projects, and knew that many times people just aren't in the mood to be charitable. I was hoping that I would be able to collect 100 items. Never in my life could I have imagined collecting over 600 items! All I had to do was set the deadline day and continue announcing it, and the donations kept coming. The hard part of it was having to sit down and sort all the items we had collected, but it was worth it. I had not spread the project out any farther than my mother and myself, so I didn't have any helpers to count or sort items with me. The process took a little while but it was finished eventually.
I started this project with the intention to change the lives of children in my county, and I think I will accomplish this goal. I have been told that we have collected enough items to fill every order and have some left over. Which means that every kid in my county will have access to personal hygiene items and will be able to maintain their physical health by keeping clean. I was never given the number of kids who we would be helping, and however many that may be, I hope they understand that there is no shame in asking for help and that when they need help I will be there to start another collection.
You start charity work with the intentions of changing someone else's life, never thinking about how this work might affect you, but I can tell you I was probably as greatly affected by this event as those who would be receiving the items. Like I said before, I have never struggled for my needs, so I was never aware of how charitable my community is. Now, I realize that I could not ask to share a world with a group of more caring people. In this economy, you don't expect people to be so generous. So, I was pleasantly surprised. I will definitely walk away from this experience with the understanding that you are never in a bad enough financial state to justify selfishness.
After this project what I would tell young people is always be on the lookout for a cause. Never shut your eyes to the world around you, because there will always be someone out there who needs your help or encouragement. In the words of my favorite country artist, Garth Brooks "I lost my way but found today that somebody needed me. Needed me to open up a door closed before. That's what I'm here for." There will always be someone who needs you, and you should always be there, because that's what you're here for.