Waynesburg University is participating in a bear-y special collection, “Operation Teddy Friend.”
The stuffed bear collection drive, which aims to bring comfort to those in Ukraine will last until April 22.
“I think all of us want to do something, but it’s like how and where can you help. And then, you know, there’s always concern, ‘Is the way you’re helping … sustainable?’” said Adrienne Tharp, director of the Center for Service Leadership and the Bonner Scholars Program.
“Operation Teddy Friend” accredits its foundation to Dr. Michelle Steimer’s 6-year-old son Nate Steimer.
“Recently, while watching the news at home, our 6-year-old son, Nate, came to us and asked why there were so many kids with suitcases that looked sad on the television. I almost regretted that I left it on where he could watch,” Chief Teddy Friend Operations Officer Dr. Michelle Steimer wrote in a letter.
Dr. Michelle Steimer continued to talk about how her son asked questions about what he was seeing on TV.
He specifically wondered why none of the children had their stuffed animals and asked if he could share one of his teddy bears with the children in Poland that are Ukrainian refugees.
“What has started as a small operation has grown into a much larger chance to help our children help the children of Ukraine that have been displaced and are in much need of special ‘friends,’” Dr. Michelle Steimer wrote.
According to the letter, every stuffed animal will receive a special handmade sunflower necklace with a translated message to let the new owner know they are being thought of warmly.
“I feel like many of us just feel helpless and this is one tangible way where we know we can help,” Tharp said. “My hope is that we’re able to put a smile on a child’s face and … kind of give them some hope.”
According to Tharp, donations will be distributed to Ukrainian refugees in Germany and Poland, among other locations. All are welcome to donate and continue Nate Steimer’s work.
“What’s happening in Ukraine may not be happening in our backyard, [but] it’s real. It’s other people’s reality,” Tharp said. “I think it’s just part of our civic duty and kind of our duty as Christians to help in some way.”
For those interested in donating, there is one donation bin in the Stover Campus Center and one in Miller Hall.