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Blacksburg girls host underwear drive in lieu of birthday gifts for themselves

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CHRISTIANSBURG (WSLS 10) - Two Blacksburg girls celebrated their birthday by asking friends to bring gifts for others.

Maddi and Reese Kunkel are like a lot of 12- and 10-year-olds. They like playing outside and having a tea party on their birthdays. But when it came to their birthday celebration in June, they both asked friends for a unique present.

"They were surprised I think at first," said 10-year-old Reese Kunkel of the reaction she and her sister received from friends. "Instead of asking for gifts we ask for packs of underwear."

The idea came from a family friend who shared concern for children whose families have to choose between food and everything else, often go without underwear.

"As a parent, they have a choice between what is seen what is needed - and what is not seen," said Montgomery County Christmas Store buyer Vicky Ball. "Under garments are undercover."

Ball secures clothing for the Christmas store which serves low income families during the Christmas season. It's behind the Drop Your Drawers Undies Campaign the Kunkel sisters collected for. Ball said store volunteers learned from schools across the New River Valley how this least-donated item not only meets hygiene needs, but can increase confidence in kids who often sit out of PE when they go without.

"You feel more joy when you're helping somebody else out," said 12-year-old Maddi.

Maddi and Reese received 175 pairs of various underwear for their birthdays. They came in different colors and sizes from 2T to 14. Their donation brings the Christmas store closer to its goal of 10,000 pairs. That's enough for each child it serves to have undies every school day.

Ball said the store serves 1,500 families, 2,100 children. While all sizes are needed, volunteers find they most need larger sizes, 8, 9 or 10 for girls, L, XL and lager for boys and teens.

The Kunkel sisters say the "birthday gifts" they received were just as special to their friends who gave them as they were for the friends themselves.

"I think that they liked it they could be part of something that would help the community out," Maddi said.

They're hoping to make a difference, one pair at a time.

"I really hope that it inspires more people to actually be able to do this for the community because it will just react a chain," said Maddi.

Reese agreed. "I hope it really helps kids and it inspires other people other people because if two little girls can do it and then I bet a bunch of adults could.

The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce honored the sisters at a ceremony August 27.