At only seven years old, Australian-American Bronte Henfling has already brought smiles and comfort to thousands of kids in need. After touching the lives of Typhoon Sendong survivors in Mindanao with thousands of toys donated to the Bronte and Frank Toy Drive, she brought even more toys to Negros Oriental, one of the provinces rocked by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake early this year.
Her story of compassion started when she learned about the devastation caused by Typhoon Sendong. Bronte, who was staying in the Philippines while her father Greg Henfling worked on the movie “The Bourne Legacy,” was shocked and upset by what she saw. Distraught at the thought of little children who lost their parents, homes, and toys, Bronte made a video with her favorite teddy bear Frank and appealed to kind souls to donate stuffed toys for the survivors, and uploaded it on YouTube. After the video went online, Bronte and her parents were overwhelmed by the response it received. “Before we knew it, the stuffed toys were filling up the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where we were billeted,” said Bronte’s mom Megan Worthy. “Right now, I think we’ve reached about 5,000 toys, and we’re still getting more donations from all over the globe. It’s so overwhelming and inspiring.”
The outpouring of support allowed the Bronte and Frank Toy Drive to extend help to even more children. Among the Philippine companies that immediately sprung to action to help Bronte and her cause is the country’s leading flag-carrier Cebu Pacific. The airline company flew her and her mom and their team of volunteers to Dumaguete in Negros Oriental, so that they could personally distribute the toys to kids in La Libertad. “We wanted to be there for them. We wanted to show them that, ‘Hey, there are people who care about you. Hang in there and stay strong,’” said Megan. “We couldn’t have done that without Cebu Pacific’s help.” In addition to sharing toys, Bronte also helped Hope Worldwide, a non-governmental organization, teach the children about their rights. With the added support of the local communities, they also sang songs and held a host of other activities to uplift the kids’ spirits.
On the plane, Megan, Bronte and her teddy bear Frank hand-carried the most special stuffed toys, many of which had heartwarming stories. “Pre-loved toys are so much better than brand-new ones. They’re a little battered from all the hugs and kisses they have received from their previous owners. We hope that the love they carry will help the disaster survivors cope with their loss, and make them feel just a little bit better,” said Megan. Megan said that the Bronte and Frank Toy Drive made her realize the true importance of a toy to a child. “They may not be a basic need such as food and clothing, but toys symbolize a kid’s right to play, the right to be a child,” she said. “We want to give that back to the disaster survivors.”