9-year-old toy philanthropist still going strong

Ashlee Smith, the 9-year-old who started to collect toys for kids who have lost everything in fires, is now about to become a nonprofit entrepreneur.

She started out when the Angora fire hit last year, destroying many homes in South Lake Tahoe.

Having lost all her toys in a house fire once, Ashlee, the daughter of Storey County firefighter Matt Smith, said she knew how it felt and wanted to help.

She started collecting toys, and with the help of Wal-Mart and other stores, even weathered a burglary of the truck the toys were stored in.

She kept it up, encouraged by her dad and her mom, Ericka, and provided comfort to children who lost toys in Nevada and California wildfires as well as standard house fires, and even the Fernley flooding in January.

Ericka said Ashlee's Toy Closet is a Nevada nonprofit and they have filed the paperwork to become a 501(c)3, so that all donations will be tax deductible.

She said PottyPal, a small business based in Gardnerville, has donated more than 2,400 new toys to the closet.

Ashlee and her folks picked up the toys Thursday in Gardnerville.

Ashlee and Ashlee's Toy Closet are packing a donated truck full of toys and preparing for a trip to Chico, Calif., this weekend to hand out thousands of toys to the children that recently lost their homes in the fires there.

"What an amazing adventure this little girl is on," her mom said. "It is her goal to someday soon be able to reach out to every child in America who has been affected by natural disasters."

The little girl has kept on despite recent emergency surgery to have her appendix removed.

The toy closet still is in need of older children's toys like hand-held games, board games, CD players, etc. Gift cards and monetary donations are welcome, Ericka said, with all money collected going to buy toys.

To donate or for more information, call Ericka at 527-2245.

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Guy Rocha has been nabbed by the head of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad Historical Society to speak at the group's Aug. 31 meeting at noon at the Ramada Inn, 100 North E St., Virginia City.

Jim Lohse said history buffs from Reno, Dayton, Carson City and Virginia City attend the meetings, and they will hear Rocha give a presentation on early Comstock miners.

The next meeting, however, is at noon Saturday at the Ramada, where Lohse will offer a presentation on the new Pullman car recently acquired by V&T Railroad owner Tom Gray, as well as the history of the railroad's abandonment in the 1950s. For more information call Jim Lohse at 229-1818.

•••

Speaking of the V&T, I got to see some authentic V&T equipment in the movie "Union Pacific," shown at Piper's Opera House for Railway Reflections last week. The old black-and-white movies are about the only place you can see some of the old equipment.

Other black-and-white railroad movies will be shown Thursday, Aug. 7 and Aug. 14.

•••

Another part of Railway Reflections was the Sierra Nevada Ballet's version of "Peter and the Wolf," a terrific version of the great classic. The troupe, both adults and children, also performed excerpts from classic ballets and will probably be back at Piper's later in the year. Look for it, it's worth it.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.

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