AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP — A 7-year-old girl is again sacrificing her birthday presents to help other children in need.

“She started doing this for her fifth birthday,” said Gracie Fitzsimmons’ mother, Heather Fitzsimmons. She said Gracie wanted to do something to help other children she heard were in need of Christmas presents.

The St. John first grader’s birthday is in late November so the timing is good to donate her birthday presents to Ashtabula County Toys for Tots to help needy children.

“I think everyone deserves a nice Christmas,” Gracie said.

Gracie was featured on Romona’s Kids, a WOIO television program, two years ago when she started the gift donation tradition.

ACTT Coordinator Pam Laughlin said the efforts of Fitzsimmons are greatly appreciated.

“She helps a lot,” Laughlin said. “We get a lot of family that need help. She said more than 100 individual families receive assistance from the program.

“I feel awesome,” Gracie said while hanging out with her friends during a recent party at Sleep Inn.

Heather Fitzsimmons said her daughter is excited about continuing her tradition and growing the efforts.

“I’m happy and proud. As a mother I want to teach her to [help others],” Heather said.

Gracie’s mother said about 20 children attended the party.

“A lot of her classmates came,” Heather said.

Heather Fitzsimmons said representatives of Grand River Academy stopped and brought toys for the program. She said they hope to secure a larger venue next year and continue to grow the project.

At least 136 toys were collected through the efforts of Gracie and her team and $188 was donated to Toys for Tots, Heather said. The family plans to pack toys at the armory on Saturday.


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