NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Big things can come in small packages and sometimes that goes for big ideas, too.
As her 9th birthday approached, North Kingstown 3rd-grader Liliana Iavarone had an idea that was a bit of a surprise to her family.
Birthday celebrations are elaborate in the Iavarone family and can sometimes include ponies and magicians.
“Last year, we turned our shed into a sugar shack,” Liliana explained. “Instead of just having one type of cake, you could put all sorts of candy and marshmallows on it.”
Liliana, her mom Johnessa and her “Gamma” Tami were recently wrapping a load of presents near that shed.
The West Bay Christian Academy student picked out most of the stuff herself, but it was not about her.
Her “Papa,” who was her great-grandfather, died about a year ago, but her family was not ready to sort through his stuff until last month.
While the grownups talked about how the Rhode Island Veteran’s Home does not accept used items Liliana was listening.
“Liliana overheard them speaking about how the veterans needed things,” Johnessa said. “And how they wouldn’t take anything if it was not brand new.”
Liliana’s mind went to work on the answer to a question that came a few weeks later.
“My Gamma asked, ‘What do you want to do for your birthday?'” Liliana said. “And I said, ‘What if I don’t have a birthday and give to the veterans?'”
Her mom thought it was great, but wanted to verify if Liliana knew what she was doing.
“Of course, all of us wanted to make sure she was sure that was what she wanted to do,” Johnessa said. “She was all about it. It was definitely something she wanted to do.”
That sent the girls shopping.
“We have sweatshirts, we have boom boxes,” Liliana said as they rolled out of a store. “We have slippers.”
They also put out a message on social media, asking for the bare necessities many of us take for granted.
Before they knew it, the front porch and shed were packed with the help they were looking for.
“Remington razors,” her Gamma said after opening one of the boxes. “Awesome.”
A grown-up idea from an old soul who still loves kids’ stuff, like popping the bubble wrap from the shipping boxes.
But Liliana is not the least bit concerned about missing out on a big birthday celebration or opening her own presents.
“It’s not going to be weird because they’re going to like it more than I’m going to like getting myself presents,” she said.
Liliana has a long list of people she thinks about as she wraps the gifts.
“My great-grandpop, my great-great-grandpa, my Gamma, my auntie Betty and my uncle Dick were all veterans,” Liliana said. “And I’m so proud of them. So I’m so excited to meet all the other veterans.”
“I’m very proud,” her mom said. “Very proud.”
Liliana has the scissors and wrapping paper ready for more donations to add to the haul that will be delivered to the R.I. Veterans Home in Bristol on Veterans Day.
“Our veterans sacrificed so much,” she said. “I wanted them to feel loved and appreciated.”
The Iavarones have set up two registries ─ one at Target and another at Walmart ─ where you can donate the requested items that include belts, suspenders, shoes, slippers, sweatshirts, jeans, sound machines, MP3 players, portable radios, electric razors, clippers, large faced watches, movies, puzzle books and patriotic wall decor.