A campus organization is providing area children with some much-needed smiles.
The Office of Campus Recreation Youth Programs is providing local hospitals and shelters with stuffed animals they’ve collected through their stuffed animal drives. So far, stuffed animals have been donated to Children’s Hospital, University Nebraska Medical Center, The Open Door Mission and Restored Hope Women’s Shelter.
According to Shannon Mettling, a graduate assistant for youth and instructional programs, there are plans to distribute some of the donated stuffed animals to the Omaha Police and Fire Departments. The departments would then be able to provide the animals to children who may be experiencing stress due to an emergency situation.
The stuffed animal drives were started as a way to give students on campus an opportunity to make a difference in the community by donating any gently used plush toys they aren’t using.
“Everyone has stuffed animals laying around in the back of their closet or somewhere in their bedroom, so we just thought it would be good to encourage people to donate those discarded toys to help brighten the days of local children in need,” Mettling said.
Mettling said it is important organizations on campus find ways to engage with and give back to the community since the community is so vital to the success of the University.
In addition to holding the stuffed animal drives, the organization is also responsible for coordinating many other youth activities on campus throughout the year. These events include rock climbing nights, Kids in the Kitchen, Mega Craft Day and summer camp activities. The organization’s free Halloween party saw almost 600 children attend this year.
The Office of Campus Recreation Youth Programs began holding the stuffed animal drives in October. They were initially collecting donations every Tuesday, but have since scaled back to only collecting on the last Tuesday of each month due to a surplus of stuffed animals. The organization currently has over 300 items ready to be donated.
“A lot of the places we donate the animals to had more donations than they needed during the holiday season, so we’ve held off on making new donations until March” Mettling said.
Volunteers for the drives are set up in the HPER building from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the last Tuesday of every month and The Office of Campus Recreation Youth Programs would like to encourage students to stop by with any donations they may have.
The organization will also arrange to pick up donations from any campus department that has collected 10 or more stuffed animals.