Louisville mom continues mission to collect suitcases for foster kids

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An update to a story WDRB first brought viewers around the holidays.

A Louisville mom was on a mission to collect 100 bags for kids who enter foster care with only a trash bag to carry their only belongings. She far surpassed her goal and is now continuing her mission with lots of ways to give.

When WDRB first met Charlene Shipley in mid-December, her Louisville basement had become a makeshift storage unit with hundreds of suitcases for kids in need.

"Every bag and blanket symbolizes a child. A child that's alone, that's scared and doesn't think they have anybody who cares," Shipley said at the time.

The foster mom set out to collect suitcases for kids in foster care. Oftentimes when a child moves from home to home, they are forced to keep their belongings in a trash bag. Shipley originally set out to collect 100 bags and eventually blew away that goal by collecting 2,500 bags for Kentucky foster kids.

She called the initiative "Roo's Wish" after her foster daughter, and now two months later, that wish is coming true. What started as a Christmas collection drive is now on its way to becoming a full blown charity.

"Even now I'm like I don't know, I don't know if people are still going to give bags. I don't know if people are going to remember "Roo's Wish," and then I have a Bible study show up with seven cars," she said.

Oftentimes, that means struggling to find places for all the donated luggage. "We have outgrown my house," said Shipley. 

That's a good problem to have and she says it gives her hope for the future of the organization. "Just think what we could do if everybody heard more information and they all got involved. So much could happen, so much could change and we will all benefit from it because these kids are our future," said Shipley.

Volunteer Megan Hile was one of the first to donate to "Roo's Wish" late last year.

"Found the trash bag to be completely appalling and decided that was where I needed to put my time and effort," said Hile.

A mom herself, Hile said she couldn't let these children be forgotten.

"They are real children, with real faces and real problems, and if we can help in a tiny way in making their transitions just a little bit easier, then it's totally worth it," said Hile.

Donations have grown to more than 3,000 items that are handed out to foster kids everyday. More than a dozen schools, churches and local groups have jumped in to hold fundraisers for "Roo's Wish." Audoben Elementary, Chancey Elementary, Tully Elementary, Bates Elementary, Norton Commons Elementary, CAL 3rd graders, Fern Creek Elementary and Cross Academy Home School.

"Clean out your basement, go through your closets. Bring that old luggage in," said Shipley.

The little girl behind the charity continues to be Shipley's reason to continue.

"When I'm tired and I'm not sure I can do it anymore, I look at her and I'm like I want to help every kid in your situation because they're all just as amazing as you," said Shipley.

Roo's real name can't be used, and she can't actually be the face of the organization, and yet this precious five year-old little girl who has been through so much has inspired all this giving.

"I just wish Roo understood half of what she has inspired, because that little girl has done all of this," said Shipley.

A "Roo's Wish" drive will take place on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Dare to Care building next to Valley View Church, located at 9005 3rd Street Road.

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