My Cuddle Buddies project runs between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. My first year I wrote articles for the local and school newspapers, telling Jennings Michael Burch’s story and asking for donations of stuffed animals. With my minimal publicity, my phone rang off the hook; schools, families, local businesses and toy manufacturers all wanted to help. Much to my delight this project took the San Francisco Bay Area by storm. I set out bins with the logo I designed and had to collect them every few days because of the masses of donations. By the second week my living room looked like a zoo with animals tucked in every corner and on top of each chair.
This fall, I won the National Institute of Public Policy’s Jefferson Award for Public Service for Cuddle Buddies. On September 28th, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about my Jefferson Award and Cuddle Buddies and CBS Eyewitness News and KCBS radio aired the story. As a result of winning the Jefferson, I answered hundreds of emails and made arrangements for donations sites all over the Bay Area so people were able to donate stuffed animals in time for Christmas. I doubled the number of agencies with including Families for Children. Their six offices received Cuddle Buddies to distribute throughout California. I also negotiated an annual donation of stuffed animals from Unipak Toy Manufacturer of Milpitas, California, Macy’s including 500 new Shrek dolls, and Folkmanis Toy Company in Emeryville, California. I completed my 7th annual drive at the Piedmont schools where we solicit stuffed animals from the community at large during the weeks between Thanksgiving and December 20th.
I designed the Cuddle Buddies website www.cuddlebuddies.net, and a brochure to use when I meet with new agencies and toy companies. I also published a “Ten Steps to Start Your Cuddle Buddies” informational packet because of the many requests I received to start local chapters here and out of state.
I never dreamed that Cuddle Buddies would have an impact on so many children’s lives. My mom and I make deliveries to the agencies and it is amazing to see the kids waiting for their Cuddle Buddies with their eyes down, too shy to look but shaking with excitement. The Director of Development at Lincoln Child Center in Oakland, California informed me that it would not have had enough Christmas presents for their children this year if they had not received their buddies. The ripple affect of Cuddle Buddies continues to grow and I have brought on two new high school students to carry on once I leave for college. I started Cuddle Buddies when I was twelve years old in my garage and my vision now is to have it become an established non profit corporation with offices across the country. The success of Cuddle Buddies and seeing the delight on the kids’ faces has made me determined to continue my project.