Friday, October 27, 2000

Gifts from heart

Teddies made for good cause

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLERAIN TOWNSHIP — Jon Perkins, 17, was sitting at a table with other students stuffing teddy bears. Diane Ritter, a speech therapist at Frederick A. Breyer School, asked what he was doing.

        “Stuffing bears for the fire department,” he said, working a generous pinch of polyester fill into the flannel body and limbs of the bear.

        “And what will they do with them?” Ms. Ritter asked.

        “Give them to kids when their house burns down,” Jon said.

[photo] Breyer School student Treveor Shaw, 17, plumps up a teddy bear with stuffing Thursday. At right is Elaine Perdue, an instructional assistant.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        Breyer students have mental and physical disabilities. For most of Wednesday, the students stuffed the teddy bears with fill and poured buckwheat kernels into the stuffed animals' bellies. The gymnasium was turned into a toy factory.

        Even the most physically challenged participated. Some, like Tyrone Phillips, 11, who is in a wheelchair with severe physical disabilities, helped out by shaking a funnel attached to a tube. The buckwheat slipped into the flannel bear.

        Today, the teddy bears — the goal was to produce 100 of them — will be presented to the Colerain Township Fire Department. Firefighters, especially those out on emergency medical runs involving children, hand them out to children to help assuage fears.

        “The whole basis for our school is advocating for our students to be a part of the community,” said Megan Sexton, a teacher at the school, which is operated by the Hamilton County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. “All of us are interested in turning around the stereotype of people with disabilities. We want people to know that we actually have something that we can give back.”

        More than 100 students participated in producing the teddy bears Wednesday. Those who had the dexterity to stuff bears did so. Others helped make lemonade. Some made tags, threading red ribbon through punched holes, to be attached to the bears.

        Jon Sauter, 18, of Colerain Township, helped to stuff bears. He said they were for children who are sad.

        “Do you think giving them bears will make them feel better?” Ms. Ritter coaxed.

        “Yes,” said Jon.

        Dave Jennings, a spokesman for the fire department, said the teddy bears do make a difference.

        “We'll give them to children on EMS runs,” said Mr. Jennings. “They're scared already as it is. Anything we can do to calm them down and make their day go a little better is good.”

        The students have done other give-back programs, said Julie Collier, Breyer principal. In the next two months they will be making centerpieces and place mats for Drake Center. They have collected aluminum cans for recycling, and cleaned toys for Mercy Hospital Fairfield.

        “We do as much outreach as we can” said Ms. Collier.

        “This gives them a sense of being part of something,” said Claude Rost Jr., spokesman for MRDD. “A lot of it is self-esteem. They get a feeling of giving something back to the community.”

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