Operation Teddy Bear: Sending bear hugs to Iraq
Are there neglected stuffed animals overflowing from your child's bedroom -- teddy bears and other stuffed animals of yesteryear, fuzzy friends from ancient history? Have your teenage kids long outgrown their stuffed animals, but keep them around just for memory's sake? If "teddy bear neglect" is happening in your home, there is now a good reason to clean out those overcrowded bedrooms and, at the same time, help other children create fond memories of their own.
Kathleen Nullet's gifted and talented seventh- and eighth-grade classes at Kailua Intermediate School are about to deploy an army of fuzzy friends to Fallujah, Iraq. Their mission: Operation Teddy Bear.
When my son Dave Thielen told me about a humanitarian mission he spear- headed in Boulder, Colo., called Operation Teddy Bear, I knew immediately that this was a perfect project for students in the Aloha State. I visited Kailua Intermediate School and proposed the idea to the students, who then promptly adopted the project. The students renamed Operation Teddy Bear, calling it Operation e malama na Keiki o Iraq (caring for the kids of Iraq).
To accomplish their mission, the students are collecting donated teddy bears, other stuffed animals and soccer balls for the children of Iraq. Stories have filtered back about Iraqi children using rocks for soccer balls, and KIS students want to send them the real equipment.
Saturday, Oct. 22, is donation drop-off day at their school, located at 145 S. Kainalu Drive. On this day, people can also donate money to the students, who hope to collect about $800 for the shipping and handling costs and for the purchase of 250 additional soccer balls. Each student is responsible for collecting and contributing four items and $5. The objective is to get other Hawaii residents to contribute -- to pass along the gift of giving.
KIS students are already beginning to experience the joy of giving while preparing their cuddly care packages for departure. They have been busy organizing for the collection drive, researching possible donors and learning more about Iraq. I arranged for a Marine staff sergeant to be the recipient at the other end in Fallujah. When I corresponded with the Marine staff sergeant through e-mail conversations, she was eager and excited to play a part in this heartwarming mission. She and her Marine colleagues will distribute the stuffed animals and soccer balls to Iraqi youngsters.
Once in the hands of these youngsters, there is no telling where the adventure will take them. I have a feeling that the fuzzy friends from the Aloha State will be well cared for, and not soon forgotten by the Iraqi children. In turn, the Kailua Intermediate School students will not soon forget the lesson they learned from Operation e malama na keiki o Iraq -- that sometimes the greatest gifts in life are the ones we give away.
Rep. Cynthia Thielen, a Republican, represents Kailua-Kaneohe Bay.