In all, 13,000 pounds of canned and boxed foods. It’s a mountain of goods that 13-year-old Emma Allred is justifiably proud of.
The teen and her family moved from Mississippi to Twin Falls two years ago. Allred is a typical teenager in many ways. She likes to cook, draw and play sports. But for the past three years, she has been living with cancer and is a patient of St. Luke’s.
When Allred was asked earlier this year how she might spend a wish from a non-profit organization, her reply was that she wanted to give a gift rather than receive one herself. Allred said she wanted to help the homeless population in her community.
“I didn’t know what to do at first,” she said. “I kept forgetting about my wish. Time was coming up for the wish day, so I asked the Lord what I should do, and he told me to help the homeless.”
She originally planned to distribute bags of toothpaste and toothbrushes, and then, in Allred’s words, “it snowballed.”
And how it snowballed.
With the help of volunteers and her family and friends, Allred organized “Emma’s Day” on Oct. 1 in the Twin Falls City Park. The idea was to collect as much canned and boxed food as possible to help those in need. And the provisions poured in.
“I was surprised by how much attention I personally was getting and how much food was donated,” Allred said.
Her family was also touched by the generosity.
“I was speechless and very humbled,” said her mother, Nina Allred. “It was much more than we expected. It was very overwhelming, but in an amazing way. We have been very blessed by it all.”
Many local organizations welcomed the supplies and applauded the effort. The value of the donations were estimated to approximately $40,767, according to Ken Robinette, the director of South Central Community Action Partnership.
“We would like to thank Emma and her family for this opportunity to give back to those in need,” Robinette said.
South Central Community Action Partnership helps low income families and individuals in different ways to make a positive impact on the community. In Twin Falls and surrounding Idaho communities, the group provides assistance with rent, utilities, food and heating bills.
Nina Allred is filled with gratitude for the generosity of the community and hopes the food will help nourish homeless individuals and families.
“We can’t say thank you individually, so it would be nice to get a thank you out to everyone who helped to make this as big as it was, and it brought a smile to Emma’s face,” Nina Allred said.
News of the girl’s wish has spread throughout the country. Allred has been interviewed by local and national media representatives, including “People Magazine” and “Inside Edition.”
Allred said being in the spotlight isn’t exactly in her comfort zone.
“I’m a very behind-the-scenes person,” she said. “I’m ready for it to be over.”
Allred’s personal journey continues. She has received three rounds of chemotherapy and had a fourth surgery this month. While in surgery at St. Luke’s in Boise, doctors discovered that her cancer had returned. Her treatment plan now includes chemotherapy and radiation.
“We try to have a positive look on it,” Nina Allred said. “It has its ups and downs. We didn’t take it as ‘Why us?’ We thought that God must think highly of Emma. He chose her for this journey.”
One thing is clear: Emma Allred’s journey is one of selfless devotion to others. Another wish? She would like what she called a “community family reunion” to become an annual tradition as a way to keep the support rolling year after year.
Michelle Bartlome is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.