UCA enlists in Teddy Bear Brigade

Published 9:42 pm Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chris Ellis, director of the Teddy Bear Brigade, enlisted students at Unity Christian Academy to collect stuffed animals for charity. He said the project is one children of all ages can understand and do. (WDN Photo/ Mona Moore)

Students at Unity Christian Academy have joined the Teddy Bear Brigade.
The brigade is a nonprofit organization that delivers teddy bears, medical supplies, food and clothing to residents in third-world countries and victims of natural disasters.
UCA Administrator Kristie Warren said the project tied in well with the school’s motto: “Love God, love others, serve both.” She encouraged students to participate in order to be a blessing to someone because they have been blessed.
“God can use you, but you have to put action to that. The biggest reward is showing God’s love,” Warren said.
Chris Ellis, director of the Teddy Bear Brigade, visited the school Tuesday to start the campaign.
“The Teddy Bear Brigade started in 2001 as a ministry to Guatemalan orphans. Now, we ship all over the world,” Ellis said.
He told students the orphans were abandoned on the streets when families could not afford to feed them. The children, as young as 5 years old, were hooked on drugs and pick-pocketing, Ellis said. When police rounded them up, they were sent to orphanages.
“They were in this emotionally fragile state. It’s intense months and months of counseling for these kids,” Ellis said. “They found that with stuffed animals, the amount of counseling time was cut in half.”
Since 2001, the brigade has shipped 300,000 stuffed animals. In 2012 alone, nearly 60,000 have been shipped as humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Eleventh-grader Olivia Maxey said she planned to collect as many as possible.
“It made us really start thinking of how what we could do to start serving other communities,” Maxey said.
The toys do not need to be new, just in good condition. They can be as small as a Beanie Baby or as large as they come. Ellis recommended students visit yard sales and second-hand stores to collect the stuffed animals.
Ellis said the bears are a way of reaching people with the gospel message. A church in Virginia attached notes to each of its bears, with messages like, “I love you and Jesus loves you.”
Sophomore Jonah Harding looks forward to getting involved.
“It seems really easy to affect a lot of people through this,” he said.
The school set a goal of $500 and 1,000 teddy bears to collect by Christmas break. Ellis asked them not to focus on the goal.
“If it’s one teddy bear or 100 teddy bears, it’s still being involved. It’s still being engaged. It’s still being a part of the process,” Ellis said. “I want you to envision when you start your collection, every stuffed animal is a child. It might be the only toy they ever get.”