FARMINGTON, Maine — Gracie Ward wants to provide disposable diapers to local families in need.

Ward, 13, of Wilton created the Little Tushies Diaper Bank as a philanthropic project at Mt. Blue Middle School, where she is a seventh-grader. She and her mother had been talking one day about the idea of a diaper bank, Gracie Ward said.

“I did some research, and I couldn’t find a nationally registered diaper bank in Maine,” she said.

The honor roll student decided local families in need could use diapers.

“I’ve chosen to start a diaper drive that I hope will be successful enough to become the only diaper bank in the entire state of Maine,” she said. “I [also] want to raise awareness so that all babies have clean diapers to wear.”

By Monday, four days into the diaper drive, she had collected 1,808 diapers, some pull-ups and raised $758 to buy more. That does not include any money donated by relatives to buy diapers. She already has done some shopping with family and has used coupons to get the best deals. A Facebook page and GoFundMe account have been set up. She is looking for more diaper coupons.

“I think it is amazing. We are so proud of her,” Amy Ward, her mother, said.

On her fundraising page, Gracie asks people to imagine how it would feel if they could not provide their baby with clean diapers.

Many families are struggling to pay electric bills, put gas in their cars and provide necessities, such as food to their children, and don’t have the additional money to buy diapers, she said.

As the oldest of six children, she has done her share of helping her mother and father, Eric Ward, with her brothers and sisters. She knows what it feels like to hold a crying baby and not be able to calm it, she said. She has never had to worry about a lack of diapers in her house, but she knows some families are facing that problem.

She thinks more people will be able to access the diaper bank for help once it’s in operation. For now, the diapers are being stored in her family’s basement. People in need or who know of those in need can reach her through her Facebook page at The Little Tushies Diaper Drive, GoFundMe.com/nvw3z0 or by email at thelittletushiesdiaperbank@gmail.com. Her mother monitors the communications.

Ward has done a lot of research on the need for a diaper bank.

She is passionate about her project because disposable diapers can cost a family up to $100 per month on average, and this is one of the items that is not funded by government assistance programs, she said.

Research shows that children who are left in soiled or wet diapers for extended periods have higher incidences of rashes and urinary tract infections, she said. It also shows that a lack of access to clean diapers also can cause depression in the parents and abuse toward children because of their crying and fussing, she said.

While cloth diapers are definitely more eco-friendly, some laundromats prohibit parents from washing soiled diapers in the machines, she said.

She set an initial goal to raise $2,000 for diapers.

Teacher Maureen Oswald suggested Ward include inspirational notes to parents and grandparents with the diapers. She plans to do just that.

The philanthropic project has to be completed by May 4.

“When I reach my goal, I plan to increase it and keep it going,” Ward said.

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