A toy drive is being held in memory of a North Texas toddler whose tragic story captured the hearts of people across the country and world.
Dozens of elementary school students will soon receive gifts in Sherin Mathews' memory.
One by one, the gifts are being wrapped with care in Shanna Poteet’s living room.
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Her family’s Christmas tree has been inundated with gifts for others.
There’s a unicorn puzzle going to a little girl Poteet doesn’t know.
With every present, thoughts turn to another child Poteet never met -- but a little girl she doesn’t want to forget.
"I don’t want Sherin to ever be forgotten," she said.
The 3-year-old Richardson girl who had been adopted from an Indian orphanage and brought to North Texas by her adoptive parents.
The toddler was reported missing in October 2017. Her tiny body was later found in a culvert near her home.
Poteet recently approached a friend who’s a teacher in a low-income Fort Worth Neighborhood with an idea in mind.
“I had originally wanted to sponsor one of her kids for Christmas but then I thought: I wish we could do all the kids,” Poteet said.
So she took to the Facebook page she dedicated to Sherin’s story in 2017: Love and Justice for Sherin Mathews.
Poteet kicked off a toy drive in Sherin’s memory.
“It’s a good way to honor and remember her and give back to other children because at one point in time Sherin was needy, she was abandoned and she was a needy child,” Poteet said. “She didn’t have anything.”
The school, whose name NBC 5 is not revealing now, had 53 third graders in two classrooms write down their wish list.
“Very simple things,” Poteet said. “Teddy bears. A couple kids asked for food.”
Other students asked for more than toys.
“One kid in particular asked for a family,” she said. “I teared up. It’s sad reading that in a kid’s handwriting. A third grader’s handwriting. This is what they want for Christmas.”
The toy drive has nearly met its goal.
Poteet said much of the support for the toy drive came from people living outside Texas, people who followed Sherin’s story from states like California.
Local law enforcement officers agreed to take part in a special holiday party at the school where the students will receive their gifts, Fort Worth ISD confirmed.
“You want to help these kids as much as you can,” Poteet said. “Give them something to smile about for the holidays.”