Fairfield University students bring Teddy Bear drive national

Fairfield University students bring Teddy Bear drive national

Image: Teddy bears A "Teddy Bears with Love" holiday collection that began nine years ago with the Fairfield University Office of Alumni Relations collecting the furry stuffed animals for youngsters in area hospitals, has gone national. More than 1,500 Teddy Bears collected this year will find their way into the arms of children as far away as the Bronx, Boston, Chicago, and Denver. Since its inception, the program has collected and donated nearly 10,000 teddy bears.

Colleen McGinn, assistant director of Alumni Relations at Fairfield, who oversees the project, says the program's growth can be credited to the continuous generosity of Fairfield's alumni and University community as well as the hard work done by the students in the Fairfield Student Alumni Association who took over the operation of the project three years ago. They were very creative, she says, in not only finding ways to tap into their own peer groups on campus, but also in working with the Alumni Office to engage alumni across the country in the drive.

Student co-chairs, Stephanie Clapp of Chelmsford, Mass., and Lisa Arduini of Lawrenceville, N.J., both juniors, said the experience in running the drive was challenging and rewarding. An education minor, Clapp said, "The fact that it focuses on children really appealed to me." She and Arduini both strengthened their leadership and organizational skills as they worked to get the attention and commitment of students who were knee-deep in final papers and exams. In the end, they said, the effort was well worth it. "Seeing all those bears in Alumni House was amazing! Arduini said. "I'm so glad that our efforts can help make some children's Christmases a little brighter this year."

Alumni from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Manhattan, and Washington, D.C. served as area contacts for local alumni to donate bears. Regional contacts in several cities even planned socials for local alumni during the first two weeks of December, soliciting Teddy Bears as the price of admission. Other alumni started their own mini-drives within the schools or businesses where they worked or were associated. In all, the chapters collected almost 700 of the always popular Teddy Bears.

"It has really been fun to see the students" reactions as the donations have grown," McGinn said. "Wanting to surpass all past drives, we set a goal of 1,500 this year and we're excited to have reached and exceeded it. The students worked really hard and were thrilled that the response from alumni, campus, and their fellow students was so great, especially in this economy."

The Student Alumni Association members also benefited from seeing how alumni could still make a difference at their alma matter, even from a distance. "They got a real kick out of the bears that are sent in each year from an alum who lives in Alaska," said McGinn.

The Teddy Bears will be distributed in 12 locations, including Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Children's Hospital in Boston, the African Community Center in Denver, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Foundation of Newark, NJ. Connecticut sites include Bridgeport and St. Vincent's Hospitals, Yale New Haven Children's and Connecticut Children's Medical Centers, Action Bridgeport Community Development, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Among the organizations that collected for and donated to the Teddy Bear drive were:

All Saint's Catholic Academy, Bayonne, NJ
Chrysalis Experiential Academy, Roswell, GA
Fairfield Ludlowe High School, Fairfield, CT
Fairfield Woods Middle School, Fairfield, CT
Seymour High School, Seymour, CT
Watchung Hills Regional High School, Warren, NJ
Girl Scout Troop 1474, Davidsonville, MD
Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Organization
Long Island University CW Post Campus Honors Program & English Department
Enterprise Rent-A-Car of Fairfield, Bridgeport, and Wilton, CT
Sikorsky Aircraft, Stratford, CT
Belden & Kay Jewelers of Southwestern, CT

Posted On: 12-18-2008 10:12 AM

Volume: 41 Number: 166