Stephanie Rovere, an 8th Grade Student at Eisenhower Middle School, put together a special fundraiser for kids who lost everything during Hurricane Sandy.
Stephanie actually began thinking of this idea throughout the days of the storm. She has cousins who live in Staten Island and their home was destroyed. She really wanted to help but was told over and over that she was too young to actually go out and volunteer. She thought about clothing and food, but places were already overwhelmed with those things and couldn’t handle much more. As she realized that most of the help being given was for the adults, an idea grew of a way to help the kids; the kids who had lost all their things. Everyone has a stuffed animal they love and now so many children had nothing, so Stephanie decided to contact Build-A-Bear to ask for help!
Stephanie contacted Build-A-Bear at Freehold Raceway Mall and was told that she would need to call corporate headquarters. She did just that and after some persistence, was told that she could offer people 10% off the cost to build their own bear. She took that news and began inviting people to Build-A-Bear! She began with just her hockey team and then reached out to Mr. Huguenin, the principal at Catena. He forwarded Stephanie’s email to the whole school and word began to spread.
On Sunday November 11th, about 50 people showed up at Build a Bear in Freehold Raceway mall to build a stuffed animal to be donated back to Stephanie’s cause! The line to build a bear stretched all the way out into the mallJ Build-A-Bear provided Stephanie with large bins to collect all the bears and that’s how she was able to transport them to her home in the hopes of delivering them to children in need.
It wasn’t easy finding a way to get the bears into the hands of children who needed them. With the help of her mom, Stephanie finally located a Red Cross volunteer who was able to distribute the bears for Stephanie.
In all, 55 bears were donated! 50 bears went to the children at Monmouth Raceway shelter and 5 more will go to children in Union Beach. Mental health workers from the Red Cross were able to personally deliver a bear to each child and spend time talking with them about their feelings. There are a couple of photos below which show children clutching their new bears. One of the Red Cross volunteers shared this:
“When I was there with these girls and Sharon, the Red Cross volunteer, she was telling Emma how this was her bear to have forever. How she could tell the bear any story she wanted. About the scary things she had been through, about staying there at the shelter, and one day she could even tell her bear about how she got to go home. I watched her trauma melt away for just that moment and I could see she was going to be ok as she hugged the bear tighter and tighter.
Stephanie said that doing this has made her realize that one person can do anything. She realized how much difference you can make in the lives of other people and that seeing the photos of children with the bears she gave them made all her hard work so very worth it. Stephanie is so glad that she did what she did and so are the children she did it for!