July 28, 2014

Elyria
Partly cloudy
68°F
test

4th-grader launches program to donate teddy bears to area hospitals

Ben Thorne with some of the teddy bears he has collected for area hospitals.

AVON — Society often faults today’s kids for having severe cases of the “gimmees.”

Then along comes kids like Ben Thorne to put that self-centered notion to rest.

When the Avon Heritage South Elementary School fourth-grader turned 10 this fall, he decided against a birthday marked with presents for himself.

“I couldn’t find anything I wanted and decided I wanted to donate something to the hospital,” Ben said.

So his mom, Erin Thorne, contacted Fairview General Hospital where officials said they would like to have a supply of stuffed teddy bears to give to hospitalized patients of all ages.

“I had three of my best friends donate bears, and people I know started donating,” Ben said.

“What touched us the most was what my son had chosen to do in lieu of birthday gifts,” Erin Thorne said. “It made us extremely proud.”

What was supposed to be an effort concentrated around the boy’s friends, aunts and uncles, and other close relatives snowballed as word spread quickly around the family’s Avon neighborhood.

Ben, who has a number of his own teddy bears, ended up with 62 bears for Fairview’s pediatrics and emergency departments.

“We didn’t expect anything like that,” Erin Thorne said. “We thought we’d get 10 to 12 bears from family and friends.”

The response reinforced the idea that good deeds often don’t take a huge push.

“People are happy to participate,” Erin Thorne said.

The more than five dozen bears donated in October were soon distributed, which led the family to decide to do a second teddy bear collection for the holidays.

The family hopes to see several hundred bears donated this time around.

“It gives people something warm and soft to hold onto,” Ben said of the stuffed bears.

And they’re also good to cuddle with, especially when the comforts of home seem far away.

“The hospital can be kind of a scary place, especially if you have an emergency and can’t bring a favorite blanket or toy,” Ben said.

The drive will run through Jan. 1, according to Ben’s mom.

If enough stuffed animals are collected, some may make their way to other area hospitals, such as EMH Elyria Medical Center.

“We have not yet talked with other hospitals, but we’d love to share them with EMH and others,” Erin Thorne said.

The holiday teddy bear drive has expanded to 10 drop-off points that include Ben’s school as well as Avon Middle School, where his older brother is a student.

Other locations include Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt at 35925 Detroit Road in Avon and Crocker Park in Westlake; Ed Tomko Chrysler Jeep-Dodge Ram at 33725 Walker Road in Avon Lake; Kim’s Martial Arts School at 1180 Jaycox Road, Avon; and North Ridge Racquet Club at 5475 Mills Creek Lane, North Ridgeville.

Due to health and safety issues, all bears or other stuffed animals must be brand-new and have the manufacturer’s tag still attached.

Send your Avon and Avon Lake news to Steve Fogarty, 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.