The Middle-Schoolers from Hunterdon County
The kids came bouncing out of the school – about 20 of them, smiling and excited. They had spent a month collecting stuffed animals for my Stories for Seniors project. This was the third year that they had participated and this year topped 800 furry critters. They carried large clear trash bags, each labeled with the quantity and size of the contents.
I hugged each of them and told them I was so appreciative of all of their efforts. And I must say, that these stuffed animals were all in pristine, brand-new condition. Many still had tags on them which made me wonder if some kids and their parents actually went out and bought a special animal to contribute to the Stories for Seniors project.
We loaded up my van and I could not wait to get home and start “admiring” the latest donation.
The first special delivery was the next day and I must say that this facility is one of my favorite places to visit. They have been the recipients of the stuffed animals many times…..and each visit is like the very first. The residents have the excited look of kids on Christmas morning.
- I need these for my grandchildren.
- I want to give these to the people who come to visit me from the local church.
- My grand-niece will love this dolphin! ( How old is she? I asked.) She is 17 but she loves all things about the ocean.
And , I know you won’t mind but many of the staff admire the critters and I always tell them to take one for the child in their life. Just picture the scene – people sitting in wheelchairs hugging their pets, aides carrying animals – everyone smiling and colorful plush animals being held by people who need someone or something comforting to hold.
I picked the stuffed animals up two weeks ago –close to 800 in 20 trash bags. I only have about 200 left. Six hundred given away in two weeks. How can that happen? Well, I never want to be “stingy” when it comes to an opportunity to bring joy to seniors. And so many people want more than one or two…..It is almost like they want a family of stuffed animals, to put on their bureau, windowsill or bed.
Yesterday was very special for me. There was a devoted mother sitting by the bed of her adult son, probably in his young 20’s. The bed was in the activity room where there were 57 people in wheelchairs.
We started out with our regular songs Oh What A Beautiful Morning and Zippity Doo Da and then I brought out the 20 WONDERFUL THINGS. I held up each reminiscence item and asked questions about it. Then, I passed out the stuffed animals. There was one bag with EXCEPTIONAL stuffed animals and I wanted to be sure to give them to the residents that were very “aware” and could appreciate the beauty of what the kids in NJ collected. The bears with bows and lambs with bells around the neck were a big hit.
The mother of the young man on the bed came over to me and said,”My son is autistic and HE WAS SINGING!” She smiled a smile that I will never forget. Another lady hugged and hugged and hugged her new baby. And cooed to it and spoke kind and loving words. She was showing genuine love and care to a stuffed animal but I bet they were the exact words that she said to her husband or children.
Over and over, I hear the staff say to the residents, “Now, you have something to love.”