Not willing to just stand around and hope someone else will answer the call, Rilie Hodges, of Macomb, steps up to fill a need when she sees it and rallies others to do the same.

Not willing to just stand around and hope someone else will answer the call, Rilie Hodges, of Macomb, steps up to fill a need when she sees it and rallies others to do the same.

This big-hearted philanthropist has a real burden for the hurting, the needy and those who could simply use some support from their fellow man.

For the past three years — since she was 8 years old — Rilie has promoted various collection events for people throughout her community — whether it's Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless, Easter baskets for foster children, socks for military families or winter clothes and food-stuffed backpacks for kids at school. Providing for the elderly in nursing homes may also be on her resume soon.

Grandmother Marcy Tibbs stays close by to offer all her support and guidance, but allows her 10-year-old granddaughter the freedom to respond to any situation she feels she can change for the better.

“I'm just so proud of her,” Tibbs said. “What she brought to my knowledge when she wanted to start doing this is we don't teach our kids to give.”

So Tibbs isn't about to discourage her granddaughter's generosity or her desire to help.

“It's about teaching kids in today's world to be a part of something,” she said.

Rilie makes a difference wherever she goes.

Right now she is doubling up on her goal to help in her Socks for Service project: first, she is collecting socks for veterans and military service families, and second, she is raising awareness on a heartbreaking issue that desperately needs attention — that on any given day 22 veterans are committing suicide.

Rilie's hope is to gather up 2,200 pairs of brand new socks to bring to Flames to Hope Equine Assisted Services at their Walk a Mile in Our Boots fundraising event in Sulphur in a few weeks. Rilie and Flames are collaborating together to help provide for veterans and service personnel and spread the word that vets need support from their community.

Tibbs said Rilie is nearly at the halfway mark to meet her goal.

Flames to Hope Equine Assisted Services

Walk a Mile in Our Boots

According to the Flames to Hope, Inc., Equine-Assisted Services Facebook page, every day in the United States, 22 veterans on average, lose their personal battle to the invisible wounds of war. These veterans are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, daughters and sons.

“Show our Veterans their lives matter by walking a mile in their boots,” the nonprofit's Facebook page reads.

The Flames to Hope event — a 2.2-mile walk (in combat boots optional) — is set Sept. 21 at Sulphur Veterans Center in Sulphur.

How it started

Tibbs said years ago Rilie learned about a homeless man in Oklahoma City whose feet were blue from the cold. Someone noticed and brought the man some new socks — at which he immediately placed all 10 pairs onto his feet at once.

“When Rilie would do a public speech she would say, 'I do socks so their feet won't turn blue and they die,' “ Tibbs said.

Tibbs said she has a friend who has a charity called Sox of Love that Rilie, early on, worked with to serve others — that is until her efforts grew so big that she had to create her own charity, Rilie's Rainbow.

She has collected over 6,000 or 7,000 since the beginning, Tibbs said.

Why the focus on socks?

“Because no matter what stuff people bring — like in nursing homes — they never really think about socks,” Rilie said. “They always bring coats, scarves, mittens, gloves, toothbrushes, underwear; they never think about socks.”

The fifth-grader encourages funny socks to make the biggest and best impact.

“It tells kids they need to be happy no matter how they are and it can also brighten up their day,” she said.

Rilie also encourages adding little notes to the donations to lift the spirits of recipients.

Role model

Rilie's generosity has not gone unnoticed. Rilie has been awarded and/or nominated for special honors due to her efforts to positively impact her community.

• Pottawatomie County 4-H Youth Development Educator Katie Miller nominated Rilie for the 4-H Catalyst for Change award, which acknowledges one's leadership skills, potential and outstanding impact on others. Out of 29 mostly high-school nominees, Rilie made it into the top five, Tibbs said.

• In a letter from Jack “Big Country” Pierce, Sgt. At Arms of the Oklahoma City Chapter of 18 Wheels MA, Rilie is touted as a shy, but determined little girl with a mission to help. He said he knew his organization had to donate after listening to young Rilie explain why she was helping the charity, Sox of Love, and why it meant so much to her. The group held a poker run and gathered 1,000 pairs of socks for her that year.

• Teacher Sharon Spikes, of Macomb High School, in a Facebook post, touted Rilie's push to fill a void for Pre-K to 12th-graders over Spring Break.

“She took it upon herself to do a backpack drive to provide needed food to any students at our school over Spring Break,” she said.

• Steve Arney, with a Helping Hands program that feeds Macomb school children on weekends, also had a lot to say about Rilie.

“She had heard about our program and our struggle to feed 12 to 14 students per week,” he said. “She wanted to help so her grandmother contacted some people at Feed the Children and 1,000 cases of pre-packed meals were delivered.”

He said the school's relationship with Feed the Children has continued more than a year and feeds 60 to 70 kids a week now.

At that point, a TV news station got wind of Rilie's mission.

• In June, Rilie was featured on the Living Oklahoma segment of KOKH Fox Channel 25 News to receive the Noble Cause Award. She was named that month's winner for her efforts to give to those in need.

“She's the youngest to ever receive that award,” Tibbs said.

Rilie's collection stations

Rilie collects socks all year long; there are several collection sites that accept socks for Rilie's charity.

This week she has a booth set up in the Children's Barnyard at the Pottawatomie County Fair.

Year-round donation stations are: Buddy's Home Furnishings, at 1803 N. Harrison in Shawnee; Pottawatomie County OSU Extension Office, at 14001 Acme Rd.; Cope's Country Cafe, at 41130 Macomb Rd. in Macomb; Steve's Greens, at 6715 N. May Ave. in Oklahoma City; and Papa's Leather, at two locations — at 717 SW 59th and at 5603 NW 23rd St.

“Being new here, we want to partner with more local businesses,” Tibbs said of the Shawnee area. She said her family has lived in Macomb for a year now. “We want to give them a children's charity in this area.”

She said, “I'm hoping people will want to come forward and help.”

For more information

Not to be confused with another charity with a similar name, more information can be found at Rilie's Rainbow, at RiliesRainbow.org.