KANSAS CITY — People have been contributing from far and wide to ensure a special 11th birthday party for a Kansas City girl who allegedly was locked in a closet for years and weighed only 32 pounds when she was found by authorities.
The girl was found in the closet June 22 when authorities responded to a hotline call. Authorities believe she was hidden inside her mother's Kansas City apartment for several years and was not allowed to play outside or go to school. Neighbors were unaware the girl lived in the apartment with her mother and two siblings.
To donate to the girl, known as LP, using PayPal or a credit card, go to kclinc.org.
Birthday cards and kid-friendly care packages for LP’s birthday, which is Wednesday, can be mailed to LP Fund, c/o LINC, 3100 Broadway, Suite 1100, Kansas City, MO 64111.
The girl's mother is jailed on felony charges of assault, child abuse and child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty. Her boyfriend, Marcus Benson, has been charged with two counts of child endangerment. He said he didn't know the girl was being kept in a closet. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 9.
The girl's story has captured attention across the country. On her 11th birthday Wednesday, she will receive at least 400 cards, school supplies, coloring books and toys, as well as a new bike. The gifts come from places such as Georgia, Washington, D.C., Colorado and California, The Kansas City Star reported.
A Kansas City woman organized a card shower for the birthday and eventually the Local Investment Commission, or LINC, started accepting the cards and gifts on her behalf. The cards include some from inmates from Missouri correctional facilities in Potosi and Cameron. One mailed a hand-knit white and lavender winter hat with the girl's initials on the front.
Gayle Hobbs, president of LINC, said the response has been emotional.
"First you see the tragedy of it, then you see the hope of it," she said Monday. "People do care. They want to send whatever they can."
Residents of the apartment complex where the family lived will have a birthday party for her Wednesday, although the girl won't be there. Attendees are being asked to bring a gift for the girl.
The idea, said organizer Dorothy Burrell, is to show the girl how much support she would have had if the neighbors had known about her.
"We'll have a lot of the things she would have enjoyed if she were here to have a real birthday party," Burrell said. "It's her day. She's never been able to have a birthday, so we wanted to give her one."
In a family court hearing Monday, a Jackson County judge granted a motion by the children's guardian ad litem to close the legal file and future court proceedings to the public.
The mother's older brother said he was disappointed he can't get more information about his nieces and answers about his sister. He said he saw his niece last year at a family reunion and that she was smiling and seemed happy.
"I'm mad at the situation," he said. "I'm not just mad at her, because I know something's wrong. Why are they trying to blow her up as a monster? You need to realize she needs an evaluation."