In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt was on a hunting trip in Mississippi when he found an old black bear. While what happened with the bear is hotly contested, this incident birthed the most delightful toy of all time – the teddy bear.
Teddy Bears make kids feel safe and peaceful. How many secrets have been whispered in the ears of bears, dinosaurs and lambs? How many tears have soaked the fur of bunnies, llamas and ducks? While they can’t say a word, they convey love and comfort. They are friends when the world seems cold, confidantes when a friend betrays, comforters when homelife turns ugly. Over 50% of Americans still have childhood stuffed animals.
So why not create a service project using a child’s best friend? I just picked up an adorably soft moose, complete with a jingle bell around its neck, and get this – it smells like chocolate! Of course, Allie needed one. And since it was a moose, she needed, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” to go with it. At 70% off, it was a steal. But it got me thinking (and wanting to go back and get all they had left) what a great service project we could do with stuffed animals and books.
Here are some ideas I came up with. If you think of any, please share with the rest of us.
- I’ve seen posted several places on Facebook that Police officers keep stuffed animals in the trunks of their cruisers for any time they are dealing with a child separated from their parents — after an arrest, accident or fire. Imagine how comforting it would be for a child to be given a new friend on one of the most frightening days of their life.
- Help your child organize a stuffed animal drive for Stuffed Animals for Emergencies. This is a 21-year-old non-profit that uses stuffed animals, books and blankets to help children feel safe. They offer many ways to help, including a Birthday Drive where all your child’s birthday guests bring a stuffed animal.
- Women’s shelters, children’s hospitals, and foster care facilities – all these places accept stuffed animals. Some children’s hospitals do, too, but may require they are sealed in factory packing. Just ask what each charity’s requirements are before you organize a service project.
- Men and women in their second childhood love stuffed animals, too. If you call nursing care homes they will give you names of those who don’t have family visiting regularly. Go when you have time to sit and visit.
There’s a lot of discord over gently used versus new stuffed animals. I gently suggest the children deserve new and germ-free stuffed friends. Goodwill and other second-hand stores accept used ones; the parents can make their own choice whether their children should have them. God deserves our best. And if I wouldn’t buy my child a used animal, then that’s not my best. Remember, Jesus said, “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me” (Mark 9:36).Whoever embraces one of these little ones embraces me. Mark 9:37 Click To Tweet
Here’s a list of some books to pair with the animals. Some organizations may not accept religious books. Use your discretion, but be true to the purpose of the project. For me, that’s to show the love of Jesus.
Today and Always, This is True, God Loves You by Holley Girth
God is Especially Good by Bill Johnson
Just in Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado
Is God Always with Me? By Chrystal Bowman