Residents ‘Build a Friend’ for children

Sarah Doiron

On Nov. 13, senior Katelyn Thompson and graduate student Joseph Avena, community assistants at York Hill, delivered more than 400 stuffed animals to the Hartford Hospital as a donation through Children’s Miracle Network.

Thompson and Avena had previously organized an event in early October for residents at York Hill to stuff bears for children who are in the hospital.

“We had always just done the simple build-a-bear idea for residents,” Thompson said. “We kind of upgraded it and made it more meaningful.”

Thompson said each resident was given two stuffed animals, one for themselves and one to donate and they would stuff the animal and write notes to children in the hospital to go with the stuffed animal.

This is the second year Thompson and Avena have hosted this event. Last year the donations went to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Avena said after not being able to reconnect with Yale-New Haven Hospital, his connection with Children’s Miracle Network through his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, allowed them to find a new place to donate the stuffed animals.

“[Children’s Miracle Network] got back to us really quickly and were so appreciative when we got there to donate the bears. It’s like we lit up their world,” Avena said.

Thompson said this is the perfect time to donate these bears with the holidays coming up.

Students, such as senior resident Lindsay Russell, said she finds it rewarding to give a child something to look forward to.

“I always write a little positive greeting/message in my bear. I definitely think it’s a great cause and that it will put smiles on those children’s faces,” Russell said.

Thompson said she wanted to create a program for residents to give back to the community.

“We do all of our programs for the residents but we just wanted the residents to get connected with the community in a better way that would be more beneficial for them,” Thompson said.

Senior resident Christina Faust said it was a great event to get students involved in helping sick children.

“Who doesn’t want to take a study break and go build a stuffed animal with their friends? We got to take the time to make a cute animal and then write a little ‘get well’ note with it, to give to a sick child in need of a friend,” Faust said.

Avena said even though he and Thompson throw events every week at York Hill for the residents, this event had a high attendance rate unlike previous events.

“When it’s just for the students the attendance is pretty low, but for this event we had a huge amount of students there and people were even lined up before the event started,” Avena said.

Overall Thompson said it was great to give back to the community and donate the bears to children in need of a friend.

“The students are putting in the work to make them personal for each child, writing them a note, putting time and thought into it and just giving them to the community free of charge,” Thompson said.