A Recipe for Success: Young People Empowering Young People

Heartbroken children, fearing the unknown, need comfort. Teddy bears and other stuffed animals can help provide an escape from the crises some children experience. Éile Woeltje chose to reinforce this comfort through a project she launched in 2013: collecting huggable, lovable stuffed animals for children in foster care and temporary housing. This heartwarming story was shared by JA of Greater St. Louis.

"Teddy bears can help a lot more than we think," said Éile. "Being able to have a bear that is their very own doesn't seem like much, but to these kids, it helps keep up morale during difficult situations. The comforting feeling kids get with hugging a stuffed animal, that's what I wanted my project to give them."

Éile, a senior at Cor Jesu Academy, of St. Louis, Mo. came up with the idea to launch the campaign, when she was volunteering at JA BizTown. The participants in the JA BizTown program make Build-A-Bears and distribute them to local charities.Inspired since 2013, Éile has now collected and delivered more than 3,000 stuffed animals, which totals approximately $44,786. The cleaned, soft toys are donated to organizations such as HavenHouse, St. Louis Crisis Nursery, Our Little Haven and Loaves and Fishes.

Successfully empowering young people can be accomplished through different techniques, Éile and other philanthropists chose to do it when a crisis was at the forefront of a young person's life.

Éile loves hearing stories about how the children reacted when they received the stuffed animals. "It can be daunting planning a large-scale community project, but being organized, staying positive and keeping in mind how this is helping the community helped me achieve my goal," said Éile.

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