For several weeks this spring the students of Randolph-Macon Academy held a stuffed animal drive, asking family, friends, staff, and faculty to bring in new or gently used stuffed animals. These toys were destined to be delivered to the local police departments and fire departments, so that when a child experiences a tragedy, the first responder is able to provide a small measure of comfort by giving that child a stuffed animal. The results were impressive: 595 stuffed animals were collected over the one-month period.
The idea for the collection came from Community Service Director Stephanie Portillo. Her niece had some stuffed animals to give away, and knew that Portillo would find just the right place. Portillo recalled hearing that first responders often give stuffed animals to traumatized children, so she contacted Warren County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Eddie Long, who also works as a Night Cadet Life Supervisor at R-MA.
On Tuesday, April 16, 2013, Portillo and Curl’s mentoring group presented the “mountain” of stuffed animals to representatives from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Front Royal Police Department.
“I’ll tell you, what these kids did, I think is amazing,” said Long. “I had no idea when Stephanie came to me with this project that they would collect a mound of stuffed animals…almost 600, that’s amazing. We deal with a lot of kids that are traumatized every day through different aspects of life—court systems, fires, accidents, assaults…. A little stuffed animal like that can make a child smile and forget about some of their problems for a while.”
Randolph-Macon Academy Middle School in particular took ownership of the stuffed animal drive, contributing 518 of the 595 animals. Portillo decided to create a small competition for the Middle School students to make it more fun: she offered to host a piñata party for the mentoring group that brought in the most stuffed animals. The “winner” was English teacher Bill Curl’s group, which brought in a total of 187 stuffed animals.
“It’s kind of like helping out other people who aren’t very fortunate or who are just in traumatic experiences,” said Orion Piper ’17. He brought in approximately 100 stuffed animals, some of which were his, and some of which he collected from his sister.
The stuffed animals were split between the Front Royal Police Department, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, and local fire and rescue units.
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