Pizzeria, young girl team up to 'send smiles' to first responders during coronavirus pandemic

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WTVD) -- People who live in Wake Forest are used to picking up when they come to Bella Italia Pizzeria but lately, they've done a lot of dropping off.

"Seeing the support of the community and of the world has been amazing," said Katie Haynes, Smiling While Sending Hope founder.

Katie Haynes has been diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Her conditions have forced her to stay inside during this pandemic. But she wasn't going to let that stop her.

"I wanted to do this because I have friends who are EMTs and nurses and I thought this would be a good way to give back," Haynes said.

Haynes started Smiling While Sending Hope in 2015. She creates care packages for other people with special needs or chronic conditions. She thought this could be her way to help others in need now by making those care packages for first responders.

"She's doing an incredible thing and we stand behind her," said Dave DeNicolais, Bella Italia Pizzeria owner.

Now she's working with DeNicolais to gather materials. She said he's going above and beyond picking up crafting supplies, hand sanitizer, stickers, homemade masks and then dropping them off to her. Haynes uses all of the materials to make care packages for first responders on the front line of the pandemic.

"Seeing how people want to make an impact on the world and doing what I've been wanting to do for years is really incredible and inspiring," Haynes said.

They want to hand out the first 100 bags to nurses and doctors at UNC REX this weekend but they still need more supplies.

You can drop off a donation at Bella Italia Pizzeria and you'll receive 50 percent off of your food order. You can also visit this Amazon Wish List for what to purchase.
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