BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) ─ When Liliana Iavarone overheard what local veterans needed, she decided to do what they did when they joined the military.
Iavarone started collecting gifts for for veterans in September after declaring on social media she wanted to give, not receive on her ninth birthday.
On the Sunday before Veterans Day, the North Kingstown third-grader and her pack of elves delivered more than 500 presents.
“Socks, shavers, old movies, music,” she explained. “Sound machines and boom boxes. Things they like.”
All of it wrapped and bagged by Liliana, her mom and her grandmother, known as Gamma, and one of many veterans in her family tree.
“My great grandpa, my great-great grandpa, my Gamma, Uncle Dick, my Auntie Betty, were all veterans,” Liliana explained.
Liliana’s Gamma, Tami Iavarone, understands her granddaughter is a bit of an old soul with grown-up perspective.
“She understands the difference between want and need,” Iavarone said. “And I think that’s what really drove her to make the decision.”
“When I get presents for my birthday, there’s things that I want,” Liliana said. “If I give them presents, it’s things that they need.”
As Liliana stood on the loading dock surrounded by her accomplishment, the next gift was a natural.
A group of veterans and family members started singing Happy Birthday to her, and the wishes have come from beyond Bristol.
“Colorado,” Liliana reads on an envelope with a card in it. “Thank you so much for what you did for our veterans.”
Liliana has received cards from just about every state, and from even farther away.
“This is from the Philippines,” she said, opening another card.
“They sent birthday cards and beautiful notes and the participation and the love from everyone was amazing,” her grandmother said. “She thought of this on her own and we just had no idea how big this would get.”
For a little girl with a big idea and an even bigger heart.
“It made me feel very happy and warm on the inside,” she said. “Because I knew I was doing something good for someone else and that they would love them and just feel appreciated.”
As of Friday afternoon, her map of cards is missing Wyoming, North Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, Ohio, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon and Nebraska.
Cards can be sent to Liliana Iavarone at P.O. Box 236, North Kingstown, R.I., 02852.