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Bradford girl aims to collect 3,000 pairs of socks

  • Seven-year-old Preston O’Donnell, of Bradford, Vt., holds a basket of donated socks that she is collecting for the Upper Valley Haven as part of her "Socktober" campaign to collect 3,000 pairs of socks for homeless people in the Upper Valley. (Katie O'Donnell photograph)

Valley News Calendar Editor
Published: 10/5/2019 10:48:22 PM
Modified: 11/1/2019 4:57:25 PM

BRADFORD, Vt. — When six-year-old Preston O’Donnell heard that her best friend lost her home in a fire earlier this year, she wanted to do something.

“She’s seen fires her whole life, but it really woke her up when dad came home and asked if she had any toys to give away,” said Preston’s mom, Katie O’Donnell.

Preston’s dad, a firefighter, had been battling the blaze.

“I gave her some of my toys from my room,” said Preston, a first-grader at Bradford Elementary School.

The action prompted mother and daughter to talk about other ways Preston could help the community. After doing some research, they came across “Socktober,” a national campaign that encourages children to collect socks for homeless shelters in their communities. Preston became intrigued by YouTube videos about the campaign.

“I’m very proud of her,” O’Donnell said, adding that her hope is that Socktober gets Preston to gain “that knowledge of community” and to learn that “even though she doesn’t have much, she’s still able to give and help someone else.”

So far, they’ve collected more than 100 pairs of socks and raised more than $1,000 for the Upper Valley Haven. Their goal is to collect 3,000 pairs by Oct. 29.

“We do get sock donations, but nothing to the scale of what Preston’s doing,” said Laura Gillespie, director of development and communications for the White River Junction-based nonprofit. It’s pretty great that such a young kid is wanting to do this effort.”

Socks are always needed at the Haven and, in addition to being given to people who stay at the Haven, are given out when people who camp outside come to use the facility’s showers.

“Good socks are not inexpensive,” Gillespie said. “It helps keep people warm. It keeps their feet healthy. Old socks, if they’re not being washed’ have bacteria on them.”

Preston — whose favorite socks are “fuzzy socks, long socks and toe socks” and “big, big fluffy socks” that come in teal, pink and purple — knows that “some people don’t have socks.”

“But if everyone pitches in ... then what happens?” O’Donnell asked her.

“Then we’ll make the homeless people smile,” Preston replied.

It is not uncommon for children to contribute to the Haven.

“In the most sort of admirable way we have lots of children who organize food or toys or stuffed animals, — or in this case socks — because they’ve learned about poverty or homelessness in schools or from their families. They’re really compassionate and it strikes a chord with the kids,” Gillespie said. “There’s an amazing, wonderful number of children who have an awareness that not everyone is fortunate as they are.”

Editor’s note: New socks in all sizes, materials and colors, can be brought to Newbury Village Store or OSIP Adult Day Services in Newbury, Vt., or mailed to the Haven at 713 Hartford Ave., White River Junction. For questions, email Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.


Preston O’Donnell turns 7 in November 2019. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect age.

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