(KATY, Texas) — Becky Schmidt and Michelle Donahue did not know each other in August as Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful storm to hit Texas in over a decade, dumped rain and wind on their hometown of Katy, Texas.
Now the two, both mothers, speak multiple times a day as they work together to make sure children affected by Harvey have a chance to celebrate Halloween this year.
Schmidt, 35, and Donahue, 38, were introduced by a mutual friend last month when the friend realized they were both on their own working to collect Halloween costumes to donate to kids in need.
The pair have since together collected 1,200 costumes and counting. They have distributed nearly 1,000 of those costumes already to students at two public elementary schools in Katy.
They are holding a pop-up shop this weekend at a local hotel to both collect and distribute even more costumes.
“It was just something that we knew would bring joy to kids’ faces who have been devastated losing their homes,” said Donahue, who first got the idea to collect Halloween costumes from the youngest of her four children, her 10-year-old daughter.
“The kids’ parents are dealing with FEMA and relocating and Halloween hasn’t even crossed their minds,” Donahue, an assistant principal at a local junior high school, told ABC News. “Halloween costumes are expensive and one more financial burden.”
Harvey dumped more than 20 trillion gallons of rain across Texas and Louisiana. Some businesses and schools in Katy were closed for nearly two weeks due to the storm.
After the storm, both Donahue and Schmidt said they turned to collecting costumes when they were turned away from donating supplies like clothes and toiletries because of an overwhelming response.
“I thought, ‘Halloween will come sooner than we think it will so why not start collecting Halloween costumes,'” said Schmidt, the mother of a 5 and 7-year-old. “It’s just one expense that we wanted to help alleviate and create a sense of normalcy for the kids too.”
The pair spread their call for donated costumes through word of mouth and a Facebook page. They are calling their effort “Harvey Can’t Scare Away Halloween.”
Schmidt described the response as “overwhelming.” People from as far away as Michigan, where Schmidt has family and friends, have donated everything from brand new costumes to handmade costumes that are generations old.
“They’re just ecstatic,” Donahue said of the kids who have been able to pick out their costumes. “Some of them wear the costumes out because they don’t even want to take them off.”
She added, “They’re like kids again, which is our intent.”
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