Initiates toy drive for local children's Christmas

Eight-year-old Lexie Bousquet of Centralia has a big heart, for such a little person. In doing a good deed, the Centralia Intermediate School third-grader recently learned the true meaning of Christmas.
Lexie's Christmas story began in early November while she and her mother were riding to a church event.
"Lexie asked me if she could somehow help people. Her first idea was to have a hot chocolate stand to raise money for people who couldn't afford their hospital bills. While that was a very sweet idea, I didn't think we were going to get very far with it," Lexie's mother, Lorie Bousquet, said. "We talked about it for a bit that evening and I told her how sweet she was to think of helping others. I figured the moment had passed and that she'd move on."
But she didn't.
Lexie would spend the next week and a half asking her mother every single day if she could do something to help others. "Kids with cancer, kids that didn't have as much as her, you name it," Bousquet said of her daughter. "So, Scott (her dad) and I decided to look into how to start a charity, but decided it would need to wait until after the Christmas season, because it's a pretty in-depth process."
That didn't suit Lexie at all.
The youngster wanted to do something so people had something by Christmas.
Over the next week, Lexie and her family continued to talk about the possibility of making her wish a reality.
They ended up deciding to help The Rainbow House (an Audrain County United Way agency) and Coyote Hill, both Columbia locations. Lexie felt they were wonderful organizations and that those children could certainly benefit from the endeavor.
Her next move was to contact her school administrators and ask if they could send out information in their Friday folders and put up a collection box. Lexie's principal thought the idea was wonderful and a great idea for the other students. It would definitely help get the word out. She also asked people in her church, her parents' places of employment and a couple of other places around Centralia and Mexico, if she could put collection boxes in those locations.
"Lexie even went around to each individual Sunday school class in our church (probably close to 20 classes) and told them what she was doing and asked for their help," Lorie recalled. "One of our church members teaches at Missouri Military Academy and did it as a community service project. They collected 115 toys on their own."
The family had hoped for a good response, but never imagined they'd receive the response they did. In the end, they would gather 329 new toys and two large garbage bags full of used items.
"The breakdown was amazing," Lorie Bousquet said.
• 51 toys came from Centralia Intermediate School.
• 76 from Family Medicine Department at the University of Missouri
• 15 from MBS
• 35 from American Family Insurance (Dave and Brenda Wilburn, Mexico)
• 115 from the Missouri Military Academy, Mexico
• 37 from the First Baptist Church, Mexico.
They also ended up with some food that they dropped off at the C&R in Centralia, which they donated to another food drive. The family made their first delivery of toys on Dec. 16 to Coyote Hill and the remaining toys were delivered to The Rainbow House a week later.
"We're so proud of Lexie for having such a generous heart. Last night when she went to bed, she had the biggest smile on her face when I asked her if she knew how many children were going to have a wonderful Christmas because of her," Lorie said.
"I actually thought of it and my mom and dad helped me figure it out," Lexie said. "It was kind of easy, but hard to find a place to put all the toys that we got. We got Twister Dance, Monopoly, Barbie dolls, baby dolls and a lot of Hot Wheels."
"But, I learned that you can't just think about yourself at Christmas, it has to be about others too."
Lexie plans to try to do something nice next Christmas too. "I like helping others," she said. "It makes you feel good, and makes others feel good too."