Guest Post By Lisa Novick, Co-Founder of www.yeskidzcan.com, a do-good company dedicated to bringing giving experiences into young kids’ lives.
A stuffed animal menagerie lives in my daughter’s room. Animals of all species and shapes which are lovingly jammed inside a wooden trunk at the end of her bed. Stuffed animals carry such significance for children – each with its own story and memory. There’s the sad looking dog she won at a boardwalk game at the beach. There’s the manatee her Miami-residing aunt sent her for a birthday present to remind her of Florida. There’s the first animal her dad got her on the day she was born. She sleeps with this raccoon every night. And there is even the first stuffed animal I received as a child that I passed on to her because I couldn’t bear to give it away.
My father gave me – of all things – a llama which I creatively named, “Llama.” It stands one foot tall with orange-brown glass eyes, a tuft of white bangs, and a surprising noise maker in its chest. One push creates a startling bleating sound that sends any dog in the vicinity into a frenzy. “Llama” is now very old. Its legs are bowed and a few metal supports jut out here and there. (Don’t worry, they are blunt and won’t hurt anybody.) This one stuffed animal has followed me from childhood to college to my first apartment and now – to my daughter.
So you can imagine my surprise when just the other day, my daughter announced that it was time to pass along a large selection of her stuffed animals to kids who needed them more than she did. I have been trying to get her to do this for a while. Not because I am a cruel mom, looking to break her spirit by separating her from her animals and all their furry memories. She simply has so many of them from friends and relatives and birthday party favors that it seems – well – excessive.
I suggested that she divide the animals into three piles:
1) Definite giveaways
2) Definite keepers
To my shock, she quickly created a huge pile of giveaways, a modest pile of keepers, and an understandable amount of undecided’s. A quick conversation about each of the “undecided’s” helped put them in their rightful spot.
Our next decision was to research where to donate the critters. (A decent number of groups exist that take stuffed animals. However, it important to note that many organizations request only new ones.)
We got online together and found two groups that my daughter liked that take pre-loved animals:
Project Smile: This group provides police officers with gently used stuffed animals for them to give to children who have experienced tragedy or trauma.
Loving Hugs: This group sends stuffed animals to children living in war zones, refugee camps, orphanages, and hospitals or medical facilities around the world.
You do have to cover shipping costs if the group you choose does not have a drop-off location near you. (Loving Hugs helps you save on shipping costs by accessing their UPS account and taking advantage of any volume rate reduction that may apply.)
With our donation game plan in place, my daughter had one more idea. Since she was donating so many of her animals, she was wondering if she could buy one new animal for herself that had meaning. Every parent will have a different response to this, I’m sure. I decided that this was okay by me. Donating her animals was her idea in the first place. She happily selected a treasure trove of creatures to make others happy. And stuffed animals – whether old or new — carry a lot of sentimentality. Just ask “Llama” which – you will be relieved to know — remains safely in its rightful home – in the trunk at the end of my daughter’s bed.
To hear about more great deeds from kids and how you can get your own children involved in the giving spirit, visit YesKidzCan.