Students Hope Stuffed Toys Help

So far, the Random Acts of Kindness Group at Warren Area High School has performed targeted acts of kindness and broad spectrum efforts in schools.

The group is now branching out.

Members have started a We Care Bear Project.

They are collecting stuffed animals to be given to community emergency responders to help comfort distressed children who are involved in situations from automobile crashes to police and emergency medical calls.

“We are going to give them to the fire departments, the police departments, EMS… for kids that are sad,” RAK member Hope Colvin said. “They’re comforting people in their time of need.”

One of the group’s advisors, English teacher Jen Franklin, has personal knowledge of the value of the program. Her children were in a car that was involved in a serious accident last year.

“The EMS crews gave them stuffed animals,” Franklin said. “My daughter kept hers through everything”, including a variety of tests at Warren General Hospital.

“It was really special for her,” she said.

The stuffed animal has not lost favor. “She still uses that,” Franklin said. “She loves it.”

“I think this is a really important project,” Franklin said.

But the We Care Bear Project was not Franklin’s idea.

WAHS Guidance Counselor Matt Menard, who is the advisor for the RAK group, saw a story about a girl in California who collected thousands of stuffed animals and gave them to emergency responders and other organizations to provide comfort for children in traumatic situations.

He brought that idea to RAK and the group is running with it.

Members posted notices at WAHS and Warren Area Education Center and Menard sent email throughout the school district.

Warren County School District Superintendent “Dr. (William) Clark was really instrumental in coordinating,” Menard said.

The group also needed help outside the district to find and coordinate with emergency response organizations. “The district attorney (Rob Greene) was extremely helpful,” Menard said.

New or gently used stuffed animals may be dropped off for Menard at Warren Area High School by Friday, May 23.

The group asks that animals be clean and free of smoke smell and stains and not contain any loose parts.

Because the toys will be carried by emergency responders who do not have much surplus space in their vehicles, oversized stuffed animals will not be accepted. Toys for the program should fit in a regular grocery bag. Smaller stuffed animals are welcome.

The group was formed to spread kindness, but there are some side benefits for the students.

According to the club members and advisors, students, including those at Warren Area High School, are lumped into a stereotype of bad behavior.

Those in Random Acts of Kindness hope to dispel some of that reputation.

“There are kids that just want to do good things,” Robin Thomas said. “A lot of students are willing to be kind.”

“It’s a group of kids what are willing to make a difference,” Janelle Balas said. “We just want our kindness to spread to others. We want to stand out in a good way.”

“You respect others,” Colvin said. “That’s all there is to it.”