Kim Douglass recently shared a story with her son, Roger Douglass, about a fundraiser she did as a kid.
Twenty-eight years ago, Kim collected 350 stuffed animals through what she called the Teddy Bear Love Fund and donated them to police and fire departments in Columbus to put in their vehicles and give to kids who find themselves involved in emergency situations. The gesture helped keep the kids calm in the stressful situation.
“Right after the start of that, my son and daughter both were involved in a very, very bad accident, and my daughter was hospitalized in ICU for like 13 days, and she was very, very sick and had to be admitted several times over a year’s period,” their mother, Bonnie Shehan, said.
As Kim told Roger about that, he thought of his involvement with the Seymour Young Marines over the past year and wanted to do something to give back like his mom did.
The 12-year-old Seymour Middle School student created the Stuffed with Love campaign to collect new stuffed animals to give to area hospitals. The idea is for Schneck Medical Center in Seymour and Columbus Regional Health in Columbus to distribute them to kids admitted in the emergency room, outpatient surgery unit and pediatrics unit. Like his mom’s project, the stuffed animals will provide comfort to kids.
Roger set a goal of collecting 1,000 stuffed animals by May 20 when an end-of-campaign chili dinner and raffle will take place. Each hospital will receive 500 stuffed animals.
“That will be our last (day) to help push us over the top,” Shehan said.
Roger enlisted the help of his fellow Young Marines, and they are well on their way to reaching their goal with more than a month remaining.
“I’ve been going to different stores and asking if they could put up flyers for it,” Roger said.
On Saturday, he set up outside Five Below in Columbus, and that resulted in 258 stuffed animals being donated. A couple of days later, he delivered 100 to the Columbus hospital so they could start using them right away.
New stuffed animals may be dropped off at ATI Physical Therapy in Seymour, Columbus and Franklin, Seymour Decorating Center in Seymour and Family Drug in Brownstown. Dollar Tree in Seymour and Columbus also are selling and collecting stuffed animals.
To give a monetary donation, contact Shehan or go through Venmo, and that money will be used to buy stuffed animals.
Shehan said she’s impressed with her grandson voluntarily initiating this campaign.
“He has been talking to people. He has been helping when we’re writing up letters and things like that. He throws his stuff in there, too, and basically knocking on doors talking to people,” she said. “He has always been community-minded, and he wants to help kids, he wants to help people in general, so we’re very proud of him. He’s a good boy.”
Shawn Riley, unit commander for the Seymour Young Marines, said one of the organization’s focal points is community service, so Stuffed with Love aligns with that.
“I love when kids go out and do community service or their own projects,” Riley said. “For a kid at his age to be able to do something like that for his community, it’s unbelievable. We’re definitely proud.”
The project also is special to Roger in the fact that he received a stuffed animal while in the Columbus hospital’s emergency room when he was younger, and he still has it today.
“I just thought it would be a good idea to help kids,” Roger said. “It’s helping kids that are in shock because of what happened to them. I hope it encourages them to help out their community when they are older and help them get over what happened.”
In talking to both hospitals, Shehan learned about 500 children per year come through the ER, outpatient surgery and pediatrics, so she expects the Stuffed with Love campaign to make a big impact.
“I know research is showing that just a small stuffed animal can totally help that child because it lets them know that they are not alone,” she said. “Even though Mom is sitting over here, Mom is extremely upset because her child is upset, so I want to see Mom and Dad get a little bit of comfort when their child calms down, and I think that’s going to happen.”
Riley said his young son recently was in the hospital and would have loved receiving a stuffed animal.
“He loves teddy bears. He has about 20 of them in his bed,” he said. “If in that moment when he was in the hospital … to receive a teddy bear, it would have changed everything for him. It would have brought him comfort that he needed that day, so I hope that (stuffed animals donated through Stuffed with Love) brings comfort to the kids that need it during that time.”
Shehan said the plan is to do this campaign on an annual basis.
How to help
Donation boxes to collect new stuffed animals for the Seymour Young Marines Stuffed with Love campaign are set up at ATI Physical Therapy in Seymour, Columbus and Franklin, Seymour Decorating Center in Seymour and Family Drug in Brownstown. Dollar Tree in Seymour and Columbus also are selling and collecting stuffed animals.
For information or to make a monetary donation, contact Bonnie Shehan at 812-603-5412 or [email protected] or visit facebook.com/SemourYoungMarinesStuffedwithLoveCampaign23.
Monetary donations also can be made by scanning the Venmo QR code. These donations will go directly to Seymour Young Marines and will be used to purchase stuffed animals.