An amazing Arkansas 11-year-old has raised more than $50,000 and counting to help the state’s nursing home residents and is drawing a national spotlight for her sweetness.
Both of Ruby Kate Chitsey’s parents work in long-term care and she’s been a frequent visitor to nursing homes during childhood. But seeing the elderly barely scraping by on a monthly Medicaid allowance of $40, she couldn’t just sit on the sideline watching them suffer.
“It kind of put me to realize that that’s not a lot for them and that they deserve more,” she told a local TV station.
Last May, she grabbed an old notebook and started chatting with residents at the Harrison Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, in Harrison, AR, where her father is the medical director. Her mother, Amanda Milford Chitsey, 50, is also a geriatric nurse practitioner and owns her own company that provides clinical services to several SNFs. Ruby Kate asked everyone she could what three things they wanted most in the world.
“She is a typical 11-year-old child, but she sees things that others can’t see, as far as other people’s pain,” Amanda told McKnight’s. “Other kids could walk through a room and just not see other people’s plight, but that’s not Ruby.”
Amanda Chitsey expected Ruby to unearth outlandish requests — airplanes, millions of dollars. But they were surprisingly all grounded and realistic, whether it was a box of McDonald’s French fries, food for a pet, or a new pair of shoes.
“The answers were stunning. It made me cry because I had had some of these residents for 18 years,” she said, pointing specifically to a man who wanted a pair of pants that fit. “It really brought me to my knees because I had never noticed it. She broke a barrier that I was never able to break because this generation is so proud.”
Cathy Abatangle, the administrator at the Harrison Rehabilitation, says Ruby has a magical effect on the facility’s residents.
“She’s a very special little girl,” Abatangle told McKnight’s. “It just lights up their faces. They’re so happy to see her, and she connects with them in a different way than adults do.”
The mother-daughter duo decided to spread the effort to all five nursing homes where she provides services, and Ruby Kate ended up speaking with dozens of residents about their desires. The two set about helping to fulfill their wish lists, launching a Facebook group called “Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents” and a GoFundMe page to help pay for the endeavor. As of Tuesday night, it had raised more than $50,000 and counting.
The campaign has drawn national attention, getting featured on CNN Tuesday and grabbing Ruby Kate a “kid hero” award from the fundraising website. Amanda Chitsey believes her daughter may have started a “movement” and they’re thinking of launching a nationwide organization to help more seniors across the country.
“I didn’t expect this, but I would love to start a nonprofit, given all the money we’re receiving and the national attention that she’s getting now,” Amanda Chitsey told McKnight’s. “I’m overwhelmed at this point, but I think there are enough people in every state who are in the same predicament as the ones that we see every week.”