Massive Reach Of A 10-Year-Old Difference-Maker

Rilyn Kerley started tagging along with her mother on outreach projects at a young age.

“She was probably … [in] kindergarten, maybe 5 or 6,” said Melissa Kerley, Rilyn’s mother and a member of the Dunn Junior Woman’s Club. “She was always fun to tag along with.”

Rilyn helped Kerley with community cleanups and sold lemonade to raise money for the Dunn United Ministerial Association’s Food Pantry.

Last year, she “ended up just grabbing things out of our pantry and little trinkets out of her room, like pens and notebooks and little stuffed animals,” Melissa Kerley said. “She threw it all in a Ziploc bag and just put stickers all over it and that’s kind of how it all started. She wanted to pass those out.”

Now Rilyn is 10 and, with the support of her parents, has made service projects a monthly mission dubbed “Rilyn’s Reach.”

“On July 20th, Rilyn and I delivered care packages to SAFE of Harnett County, located in Lillington,” Kerley wrote on a blog chronicling her daughter’s service projects at “Each baggie was stuffed with toiletries, non-perishable snacks, an activity for adults and children and love.”

SAFE is a nonprofit that provides shelter and support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“We learned these donations will be especially beneficial during hurricane season,” Kerley wrote. “When storms hit, families may be moved from one shelter to another; the items will be helpful during this type of transition.”

Then, Rilyn and her father volunteered their time at the DUMA Food Pantry.

“We helped package food and load it in people’s cars. Other members of our church, First Presbyterian Church of Dunn, were also there. I’m happy I was able to help,” Rilyn wrote in another blog post.

The pantry distributed food to at least 80 families that day in a summer with growing food lines as the COVID-19 pandemic trudged on.

In August, Rilyn and her mother visited Harnett County Animal Services “to provide animal shelter donations.”

“Rilyn has worked hard this month by saving her chore money, watering flowers and collecting mail for a neighbor while out of town and by making and selling Rainbow Loom bracelets,” Melissa Kerley wrote in a post on Aug. 26.

“She loved the animal shelter because she loves animals,” she said.

A month later, Rilyn was heading with her mother to the UNC Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill.

Rilyn had been a patient there in 2014 after suffering second-degree burns from a curling iron at a wedding.

Six years later ­— on the same week as in 2014 — Rilyn returned to bring goodie bags, filled with toys and the comforts of home, to the hospital’s young patients.

“I want to help the homeless and people in need,” Rilyn says on her website. “I want to make a change in the world.”

This month, mother and daughter are collecting child and adult diapers to assist a family through the Harnett County Division on Aging.

“We’ve received a lot of donations just from family and friends,” Kerley said. “It’s amazing how people are just trying to help her.”

And in the process they’re helping others — many others. Her family is proud.

“She has the biggest heart and I mean she loves doing this,” Kerley said. “I hope she continues to love her community and to love other people and just provide for others.”

-Dunn Daily Record