Young Sandy victims give hope to Oklahoma children

BRICK, N.J. - June 25, 2013

10-year-old Gigi Nerney of Brick is one of Sandy's young victims now reaching out to children in Oklahoma who also lost their homes in the recent tornadoes.

"I'm very sorry your home state Oklahoma had a horrible tornado. I know how you feel. I'm serious. My home got ruined in Hurricane Sandy," Gigi wrote in her letter.

"Everyone here has basically been through the same things. So we know exactly how they feel more than anyone else," Tyler Gleason said.

As part of the FEMA-funded New Jersey Hope & Healing program, children at the Visitation Relief Center in Brick have been making banners and cards with messages of hope for the kids in Oklahoma.

"I am sorry for all your losses. I have felt the same pain as you. I lost my house from Hurricane Sandy," Riley Smith said in his letter.

Riley's older sister Kirstin is the one who came up with the idea.

"So many people helped me that I wanted to pay it forward again and help Oklahoma," Kirstin Smith said.

These kids from Jersey who've had their lives disrupted have a message for tornado victims who've lost everything:

"It's gonna be okay and that it's gonna get better," Leah McCarron said.

Ever since Sandy the kids meet here once a week to talk to counselors and each other about what they're feeling and what's going on.

"Being together with others and talking about it, it really does help the children because they hear each other's stories and they realize that it's normal to feel the way they're feeling," counselor Angela Lewis said.

"It just takes my mind off of everything and it's just a fun place," Riley said.

"Their hearts are so big; these guys are totally full of love, to give something back to other kids who are suffering right now in Oklahoma is phenomenal," Jennifer Velez of the New Jersey Human Services said.

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