(NEW YORK) — While Santa Claus may be busy this time of year, Shawn Triplett is certainly the next best thing.
Nearly two weeks ago, a slew of tornadoes upended the lives of thousands near Triplett’s hometown of Mayfield, Kentucky. Triplett, a retired Marine, said he rushed to town immediately to see how he could help.
“I’ve been deployed three times, and I’ve seen the worst,” Triplett said. “It was just absolute war zone destruction everywhere.”
Triplett said that while he was visiting a storm shelter, he overheard a little boy tell his mother, “I lost my Christmas.”
After that, he put a call out on social media, he said. His goal was to help 20 to 30 kids who were at storm shelters for the holidays.
“I reached out to my social media, friends and family and said, ‘This is what I’m doing. Please trust me that this is going to happen. Let’s get to work,'” said Triplett, whose post went viral.
Since then, he has raised nearly $95,000 from donations all over the world to buy holiday presents for Kentucky storm victims in just over a week.
“It’s really been pretty cool, because I don’t really I don’t speak Japanese or French, so I’ve had to go use Google Translate to reply back to people and just thank them,” Triplett said.
After partnering with a local Walmart, Triplett and his hardworking team of volunteers have wrapped each gift.
“They probably wrapped close to 4,000 toys in three days,” Triplett said. “It was an assembly line of epic proportions, and they were so good at it.”
Once the gifts are tied with a Christmas bow, Triplett puts on his red hat and coat and gets to work. He and his team of volunteers have delivered more than 20,000 toys and counting.
“If we can distract them from that trauma even for just a few hours, it can mean the world to them,” he said. “They can have all this destruction all around them, but still find happiness.”
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.