Stuffed animals. Lots of them.
That's what Lilly Mead told her parents, Pat and Maureen Mead, who happen to be Towson University's head swimming and diving coach, respectively. With practically no time at all to plan a major campaign, the Meads took the idea to the Tiger men's and women's swimming and diving teams.
The results were beyond anyone's expectations.
"Lilly woke up on Thursday morning and told Maureen that she thought we should send some stuffed animals to Haiti," Pat Mead said. "The two of them called me on Thursday morning and after doing some research, we found a church in North Carolina that was taking donations."
Pat Mead was not surprised that his daughter came up with this idea. According to him, Lilly "is very sensitive and very thoughtful. There are always a million and one things going on in her mind."
He added, "Out of our four children, Lilly is the one who would suggest something like this. She is very caring and very sensitive of other people's needs."
The team had just two days to get everything organized, but through a series of e-mails and phone calls, the plan was coming to fruition. Pat Mead got a U-Haul truck to take care of transporting the toys to North Carolina while Maureen Mead contacted local swim clubs, elementary schools and even a Wal-Mart to help.
"There seemed to be a lot of interest within the first six hours," Pat Mead said. "E-mails were flying back and forth and people were calling Maureen, who was calling the local radio stations to get their support. She was also able to get the local Wal-Mart to create a two-hour, 50% off sale for anyone who bought a stuffed animal."
On Friday, the team had collected about 500 animals, but Coach Mead was not worried. He knew that people were going to help out and they did.
"On Saturday, I was getting phone calls at 9:00 a.m. that Dulaney Swim Club already had 15 bags of stuffed animals," he explained. "People were saying that they were bringing eight bags and doing other things. Once I heard that, I knew it was going to be substantial.
"I thought we collected about 1,700 stuffed animals during the meet," Pat Mead added. "But, little did I know, there were another 1,700 stuffed animals waiting for us."
While the Tigers had just two days to plan the event, the results were tremendous as nearly 4,500 toys were collected at the meet and the Tiger men's basketball game against George Mason at the Towson Center along with the other locations.
Following the meet on Saturday, Pat and Lilly Mead drove the toys to a church in North Carolina where they were shipped to the people in Haiti.
While he knew that this had the potential to be a successful event, Coach Mead was certainly surprised to see what the efforts had produced.
"I was hoping that if we could collect 1,000 toys, that would be great," he said. "I think so many people in the community felt that they could help and we still have toys coming in. There were people who wanted to help, but couldn't get the toys here by Saturday.
"We are now trying to figure out how to handle those donations - whether we ship them down to Haiti or if we can find something local," he added. "Everyone can relate to having their own stuffed animal when they were younger and the comfort that toy gave them when they sick or scared or whatever."
This is not the first time the Tigers have teamed up to help disaster victims. Several years ago, the team raised over $30,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina by participating in a 24-hour swim-a-thon.