|Peter cottontail has nothing on Gail Casey. For the past 25 years, she has made it her mission to distribute Easter baskets to thousands of kids across Cleveland.
has delivered “kick-ass Easter baskets” to kids across Greater Cleveland through her work with the East Cleveland Early Childhood Development Center and the Hospice of the Western Reserve.
“While I was lying in bed, I swear God came to me and picked me to do this project,” Casey says with a laugh. Now, with an army of volunteers aiding her efforts, she distributes as many as 650 baskets each spring through her work with the East Cleveland Early Childhood Development Center and the Hospice of the Western Reserve.
Often supplied with only a child’s age and gender, volunteers pack the baskets with items such as lip gloss, toy cars and stuffed animals — or, in one case, a full-size Radio Flyer wagon. “It didn’t fit in the basket,” Casey recalls. “It was the basket.”
Casey herself doesn’t fit any neat stereotype. She’s a widow who runs a day care from her Euclid home, and her voice carries the vigor and promise of a young kindergarten teacher. But she also doesn’t mind slipping in not-safe-for-grade-school colloquialisms here and there when she needs to make a point.
Casey started adding terminally ill children to her annual list of basket recipients about five years ago. “The thought came to me, This may be their last Easter, and I would like to make it a happy time for them. So, now I handpick special people to [make baskets] for the children with cancer,” she says.
Sometimes three or four people will join together to work on a single hospice basket. Casey says there is only one rule: “It has to be kick-ass. It has to be big.” Want to make an Easter basket next year? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Easter basket.”