Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stuffed Hugs

The other night Adam suggested we watch “The Lion King” – we weren’t even sure that Julia remembered how much she used to enjoy this movie, and before “The Princess and the Frog”, “The Lion King” had been Adam’s favorite Disney movie, and it’d been a while since we watched it.

I also enjoyed “The Lion King” when I was in high school, and while my mom was traveling for work, she – knowing how much I still (yes) loved stuffed animals – brought me home two Simbas from The Disney Store – a store we hadn’t been exposed to as yet in our little town in Wisconsin.  I had already dug out and bequeathed Baby Simba to Julia about two years ago when we first started watching “The Lion King” with her, and I decided the other night that I needed to dig out Teenage Simba so that Raven also had a bit of the movie.  Teenage Simba is rather large and ALSO a puppet – very cool – and he was a hit with Raven.

(Thankfully Julia is so entranced with anything “baby” – including hoping that she turns back into a baby – that there was no fighting over the lions.  Julia was more than happy to keep Baby Simba and let Raven have Teenage Simba.)

Going through my tub of stuffed animals to find Teenage Simba reminded me of a stuffed animal purge I did a few years ago that resulted in me sending a box of stuffed animals to Loving Hugs.

Loving Hugs collects donations of stuffed animals (new or very ‘gently used’) – they call them “hugs” – to send to children in war zones, orphanages, refugee and IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, and medical/hospital facilities around the world. They also send donations of stuffed animals for emergencies from natural disasters around the world, such as the 2009 flood in Manila, Philippines, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, to bring some comfort and hope to those children.

Why Loving Hugs?  Why not just donate my stuffies to the local thrift shop or try to sell them at a garage sale?  Well, this is where you learn a little bit more about me.

When I said “tub” above, some of you might have been shocked that it wasn’t “tubs”, plural.  Growing up, I had a plethora of stuffed animals.  I asked for them for birthdays, holidays, etc., and I “rescued” them.  I absconded them from the depths of my parents’ own childhood boxes, and I adopted the ones my sister didn’t want anymore.  For me to only have one tub left is saying something – I’ve been purging over the years and keeping only those that really have a place in my heart.  I’ve also dug some out for the girls to play with – those that I’ve been able to wash/clean well.  I love stuffed animals.  I still love stuffed animals.

I had a very hard time getting rid of stuffed animals as a kid.  I was terrified that no one else would love them as much as I did – hence the rescuing and adopting.  I vividly remember one garage sale where I had put some stuffies in the For Sale box, only to go out and take them back in the house and sob and apologize for having even thought to get rid of them.  I simply didn’t want the stuffed animals to go to a home where they wouldn’t be loved.  I loved them and took care of them like they were my children.

My sister and I used to go to garage sales and rescue stuffed animals from the boxes For Sale so that those poor animals would have a home where they would be loved.  I’m pretty sure I cajoled my sister into these missions, but we would pool our dimes and buy as many as we could – often the ones that looked the saddest/in need of the most love and attention.

Another vivid memory – when my dad would go take the trash, I would often go with him.  One such trip resulted in me in tears because of a bear that I saw in the huge pile of trash that had been discarded.  Similarly I shed a load of tears last year having to throw out an animal that didn’t make it through the wash – WHO makes children’s play toys out of acetate anyway?  SHEESH.  But, I watched that dog fall to pieces and sadly had to throw him out.

For me, Loving Hugs is a way for me to share the love and comfort that stuffed animals have meant to me over the years with a child who has no toys, no animals, to love.  It’s a practice in sacrifice for me to remove these stuffed animals that aren’t seeing daylight and sharing them with children who are in need of the comfort that a stuffed animal can provide.  I watch my own children with their “lovies” and see how they interact with these inanimate but very obviously important “hugs” in their lives.  Their lovies provide them comfort that I cannot provide – they signify safety and security.  And these are kids that are surrounded by toys and stuffed animals and people who love them.  I want to be able to provide that sort of “opportunity” for kids who haven’t had that in their lives.

So after finding Simba, I decided it was time for another purge.  This morning I went through the tub again and picked out every animal that fit under their description list and I’ll figure out a way or different organization to share the rest.  Of course I’ll save those that mean so very much to me and have a story that I can share with my kids someday.  But for now I’ll donate what I can to an organization that is providing for kids around the world.

Last time I sent a box, I physically had to pack the box and mail it, so after picking out the animals, I searched Loving Hugs for their address (I follow them on FB so constantly have updates as to what they are up to), and I was shocked to learn that they operate out of Littleton, CO!  Furthermore, I found that I could donate directly to one of many Heritage Cleaners in the area as they provide the cleaning services of the animals that will be sent out.  So, Anna and I loaded up the car and drove up to Broomfield today to deliver another box of “hugs”.  And, while I admit I have not searched my heart or the area strongly for a volunteer opportunity, I think I finally found a place that ties directly to my heart where I can give of myself and not just of my past and my money.

If you’d be interested in doing something similar, check out the following links to the Loving Hugs site:

About Loving Hugs:

Donation guidelines:

How to send your “Hugs”:

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