The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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December 22, 2000 Issue
Local News

Even better than Santa Claus

Valley student collects 530 stuffed toys for kids in shelter

By Joanne Flemming
Compass Correspondent

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 Appleton.

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 held.

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 bear.

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 door.

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