Even better than Santa Claus
Valley student collects 530 stuffed toys for kids in shelter
By Joanne Flemming
When St. Mary Central High School junior Katie Kaufman brought
the first teddy bears into Harbor House Domestic Abuse Center in
Appleton on Dec. 13, a small boy ran up and hugged the largest
one. It was more than twice his size.
His mother hustled him away as the bears kept coming - 75 to 80
in all - for distribution Dec. 20 to the children at the Harbor
House Christmas party at the Fox Cities Children's Museum in
Kaufman collected 530 bears for various agencies through a
week-long drive by Seton Middle School in Menasha and St. Mary's
Central. The drive collected 250 in 1999, the first year it was
Kaufman, a St. Mary Central student, said her mother challenged
her to take on the project after she had read about a similar one
in North Carolina.
On Dec. 12, Kaufman delivered more than 100 teddy bears to the
Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Center in Oshkosh. She said that she
had 200-plus bears sitting in her living room and was wondering
where she could take them. Harbor House staff suggested the
Salvation Army or the Emergency Shelters.
Six-year-old Annie (not her real name) was the designated
spokesperson for the children. Her duty was to pick the first
She chose one as blue as her eyes because she said that was her
favorite color. She planned to sleep with her new toy. Even
though she wanted a Barbie doll for Christmas, she was sure the
teddy bear would remain her favorite gift.
Wendy Gehl, Harbor House legal advocate, said the children
receiving the bears represented children who lived or had lived
at Harbor House or who were involved in its support groups.
Gehl praised Kaufman's efforts: "It's amazing what young people
in the community do, how they pull other people together. There
are a lot of great young people. They will be leaders in our
community because they are leaders now."
But the best "thank you" came from Annie who said she had named
the bear "Katie" after Kaufman.
"It makes me want to cry," Kaufman said as she hurried out the