Never too young to give back

Rylan Coleridge, 10, holds annual U R Loved toy drive

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Rylan Coleridge does not like to put a number on how many donations she expects to collect for a given fundraiser she is organizing. With close to six years of experience running her nonprofit, U R Loved, Coleridge knows setting a bar can be limiting.

“Every year is different,” Coleridge said. This year is no exception.

When it comes to toys for underprivileged kids, every donation matters. Few know that better than the 10-year-old Coleridge.

“It means a lot to me and it also means a lot to other people,” Coleridge said. “I have lots of friends who have tough situations with family members lately due to COVID, so it's really important for me to give back.”

Coleridge began her fourth annual U R Loved toy drive in December. She set up a donation site Dec. 7 at the Holiday Inn in north Parker. Her toy drive has collected about 200 donations since she started in 2016, Coleridge said. Masked and donning a pageant sash, Coleridge greeted guests at the hotel behind a table with piles of toys stacked almost as tall as herself.

The toy drive this year is different from what Coleridge usually does. Coleridge's “Cookies for the Cause” fundraiser is a cookie-baking party normally held at her Parker home where friends bring a toy to donate. Due to COVID-19, she had to improvise. Coleridge partnered with local Rotarian Kam Breitenbach to hold her toy drive at a Santa and Mrs. Claus photo shoot at a local Holiday Inn.

Coleridge's toy drive is collecting donations through Dec. 17. Her next event is Dec. 13 at Holiday Inn, 19308 Cottonwood Drive from noon-4 p.m. For more information, visit U R Loved Project on Facebook.

Coleridge has had a heart to give since she was 4, when she founded U R Loved Project with the help of her parents.

“It really was a struggle for me to get involved and that's why I feel like kids aren't getting involved,” Coleridge said. “It's not every day you see an organization that says, `hey we're looking for mainly kids (to volunteer),' so that's why I created my platform.”

Coleridge's nonprofit helps kids get involved with volunteer work. She works year-round organizing events or volunteering with other organizations.

At first, they started small, baking cookies for first responders. Coleridge got involved with local charities she liked and recruited her friends to volunteer, too.

As her organization grew, Coleridge began to organize her own charity drives for underprivileged kids. At 6, she started her holiday toy drive.

“This is actually really important to me because I love volunteering, but it's really important that I get to do the work and see it go to people in need,” Coleridge said. “There's just certain platforms I love to work with because I see everything going on from collecting the toys and getting out to kids.”

This year, Coleridge partnered with Impact, a Denver-based nonprofit, to donate the toys to kids in Denver homeless shelters.

Coleridge's mother, Candice, said they noticed Rylan's desire to give back early on and wanted to nurture that and encourage it.

“She's very blessed, and so I'm like `you need to understand that your situation isn't normal,'” Candice Coleridge said. “You can be a good human and you can give back and you can put people before yourself, and that's OK. Just remember that, and be thankful for what you have, but if you have the ability to give, you should give.”

Rylan Coleridge said she makes plenty of time to draw, play games and watch movies with her friends. Due to COVID-19, and a hectic, cross-country beauty pageant schedule, Coleridge is doing fifth grade remotely this year. She attends Cherokee Trail Elementary School in Parker, where she is involved with the student council. Coleridge was elected to be the student council's community outreach chair.

Coleridge's next goal is to help kids who need proper bedding for a regular, good-night's sleep.

“There's some days it seems like maybe today isn't the best day, but maybe there's people I helped today,” Coleridge said. “I can be an inspiration to people to just keep going.”

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