Madison, WI,
15:36 PM

A Warm Spirit of Giving

Teen realizes her dream one winter coat at a time.


Longview, Wash., is a cold, wet place to call home in the winter. So one December morning in 2008, when 8-year-old Skyler Lee saw a TV news report about children who did not have warm coats, she asked her mother if they could do something to help. Mom and daughter promptly drove to a store and bought two coats that they gave to the Salvation Army.

At first, even Skyler thought that was the end of the story. But it was just beginning. “I didn’t know there was such a big need,” she says. “I thought it was a good thing to do, donating a couple of coats. And it just went from there.”

With the encouragement of a Salvation Army volunteer, Skyler held a community coat drive. Within two months, she collected about 125 donations, and in five years her nonprofit organization "Warm Coats, Warm Hearts" has given away about 5,000 coats.

How Skyler Lee made her dream come true

Lesson #1: She had open eyes and an open mind. Skyler’s dream became clear to her only after she made her first donation.

Lesson #2: She thought smartly and progressed slowly. Skyler stays enthusiastic and takes small steps toward making her dream a reality.

Lesson #3: She works hard every day. Summers are just as busy as winters for Skyler; there’s no “off season” for dreamers.

All along, Alissa Lee has supported her daughter’s dream. “The learning process she is getting from this is so amazing,” Alissa says. “It opens her eyes to the reality in this world. People do need help, and people who can help should.”

Skyler has also become a rather reluctant celebrity. A self-described “really quiet person,” she gets stopped by strangers who thank her, and she has received several awards for her efforts. Not that the attention distracts Skyler from her mission; she continues to scour garage sales, hold coat drives and accept donations all year long.

And where does she store all those coats before giving them away? “In our garage,” Skyler replies.

“Yes, in the garage,” Alissa adds with a laugh, “where I used to park my truck.”

To learn more about Skyler and her dream of collecting warm clothing for those in need, visit “Warm Coats, Warm Hearts” on Facebook.