HOLT — Many birthday boys and girls fixate on flashy gifts they’ll receive.
Railey Conner of Holt has a different perspective.
She’s rejecting gifts on Saturday, her 12th birthday, and requesting donations for senior citizens in nursing homes.
"I think it would be better to donate than to receive gifts," she said.
Railey won’t miss the gifts, Angie Holland, her mother, said.
"It's not a big deal to her like it is to the adults that find out that what she is doing," she said.
This marks the second year of Railey's Birthday Project. Last year, she donated gift bags to residents at Carrington Manor in Crestview. This year, Railey also will give gifts to residents at Safe and Secure Respite Care LLC in Crestview.
The former has a special place in her heart.
It’s been the home of her great grandmother, Roxie Buchanan, 84, for the past two years. She and her mother regularly visit Buchanan, who has Alzheimer's disease.
Those visits inspired Railey’s wish to bring Christmas joy to the elderly.
"When I visit her and see the other people in the nursing home, I see how lonely they are," Railey said. "I think most people tend to think of needy children, which is great, but we forget about the elderly because they are not often seen out in public.”
Slippers, nightclothes, lotions and crossword puzzles are among donations that fill a spare room in the family’s home.
"(Recipients) really enjoy the puzzles because it helps them pass the time," Railey said. "They also like the new clothing we get them because it is something new to wear."
Some 60 nursing home residents should receive gifts come Christmas Eve, she said.
Local businesses, churches and organizations posted project fliers to aid the effort. First Baptist Church of Holt and Innerlight Surf and Skate locations in Fort Walton Beach and Destin set up donation drop boxes.
Area residents have donated about $600, which the mother-daughter duo will use to buy gift-bag items, Railey said. But donations — which far surpass the number of presents most 12-year-old girls receive — haven’t met this year’s goal.
"I think we are almost there, but not quite there yet," Railey said.
She has a plan if donations exceed expectations.
"Whatever we have left over, we will box up and donate them to other nursing homes in the area," she said.
"She's a great girl, very selfless," Patti Snow, Carrington Manor’s administrator, said.
Railey doesn’t just talk the talk; she walks the walk, meeting personally with dependent seniors, getting to know them.
"She actually knows a lot of the residents here, so she personally knows what each one of them want for Christmas," Snow said.
"The residents really enjoy what she does for them."
Want to donate?
See Railey's 12th Birthday Project at facebook.com/Railey's12thBirthdayProject/
She sends donations on Christmas Eve.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.