*** Today, I have my first guest writer: My husband! Please make him welcome. 🙂 ***

Maybe it’s because I think of myself as a big ole’ teddy bear. I’m hairy; I like to cuddle; and like my favorite teddy bear, Frank, I have a bald spot. OK, Frank has more that just ONE bald spot. Maybe it’s because Frank was always there for me when I was a child, especially when I was sick or sleepy.

Whatever the reason, I like stuffed animals, and I know how much they can help children.


Five years ago, when Jen and I were living in Eau Claire, Wis., I organized a teddy bear drive for the littlest victims of Hurricane Katrina. We expected 200 to 300 stuffed animals and were amazed to collect more than 2,000. It was a tremendous feeling, knowing I was a part of something that could provide hope for so many children.

Since then, I have wanted to organized another drive. It was on my list of goals for last year, but I didn’t quite get to it. After seeing the heartbreak in Haiti, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to get in gear.

So, I suggested the idea to some of my American Indian students. Some jumped on board right way, while others didn’t seem to care. We watched some of the devastation on CNN, and I started asking questions. “What could we do to help the kids who lost all their stuff?” The answers were, “I don’t know…nothing?” I asked if they had stuffed animals they could donate, and immediately, the girls said yes. The boys, reluctantly admitted to having some too. I had them hooked.

I asked more questions about how we could collect stuffed animals at school, and the ideas starting coming. “We could make posters.” “We could go on the announcements and tell kids about it.” “We could have a challenge and give away prizes.”

Because I had run a stuffed animal drive before, I knew what some of the challenges would be: promotion and delivery. The kids were taking care of the promos in school by making posters, so I contacted organizations that would help with delivery. Healing Haiti agreed to take care of it.

Next week, Feb 1-5, the 500+ students at Battle Creek Middle School will collect stuffed animals in their homerooms. My goal is to collect 500, but I would love to get many more. Let’s face it: whether you are a guy or girl, young or old, you probably have one or more stuffed animals laying around the house or packed away in a closet, basement or garage. If you feel compelled and want to clean your kids’ rooms, your closets or your garage, think about bringing them to Battle Creek. (Ask that they be brought to Mr. Westy’s room, as I would like to see my homeroom collect the most animals!) For more information, contact me at mark.westpfahl@spps.org.

If you don’t live in the St. Paul area, see if there is an organization near where you live that might have a need for new or gently used teddy bears.

Not all of our stuffed animals have the strong sentimental value that my Frank does, but to a child who has lost everything, a stuffed animal may bring hope of better days.