El Paso Times
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What began as a simple school project for one sixth-grader unfolded into a class donation of 50 Build-A-Bears to new patients at the El Paso Children’s Hospital on Friday.
The El Paso Children’s Hospital, 4845 Alameda, opened on Tuesday and has since admitted 33 patients.
About 20 students from the East Point Elementary School Gifted and Talented program arrived at the hospital Friday with the plush bears, sporting a Texas Flag T-shirt, in hand.
Gifted and talented program teacher Patti Garcia had encouraged the students to do the project in November.
But it was student Jeannina Pratt who decided to take a bigger step.
“When I heard that the Children’s Hospital was opening, I just thought about the children that didn’t have any friends to help them go through all the scary times and the pain and suffering,” Jeannina said. “So I thought maybe we could get them something that would help them go through all of that.”
Her idea stemmed from her love of the plush bears.
“I have about 20 of them,” Jeannina said, smiling. “Every time I go into the store, I have to get the newest one. But since my mom got sick and injured her back, we haven’t gone as often.”
Jeannina presented her idea to her class, and the class wrote a letter to the principal to see whether the entire school could help in the effort to buy the stuffed animals.
The project hit a snag when they were told the entire school could not participate.
“We were a little disappointed, but we decided we could still take it on ourselves,” Jeannina said.
Immediately, Jeannina and her classmates started asking for donations from their parents, businesses, neighbors and churches. They made phone calls and wrote letters — and the effort paid off.
Within a few months the children raised $900, enough to buy 50 Build-A-Bears from the store, which gave them a 20 percent discount.
As a bonus, the patients who received the bears get to take them home.
The students had hoped to hand the bears personally to the 30 patients, but strict health and safety restrictions kept them from doing so.
After all their hard work, sixth-grader Rafael Martinez was worried the bears they purchased would simply collect dust.
“These need to go to the children,” Rafael stressed to hospital officials. “It’s hard to see the little ones in the hospital. We’re the big kids; we’re supposed to be looking after the little ones. I want to make sure that the bears went to someone that actually needs them, someone that would enjoy it. Not just sit there collecting dust.”
Larry Duncan, CEO of the El Paso Children’s Hospital, reassured Rafael and other students that the bears would be given to patients.
“We’ve got 31 children in house already,” Duncan said. “The hospital can be a very lonely place at times, even though we’ve put a lot of activities here for them, the fact that they know someone is reaching out to them and giving them a bear they can play with. This (the bears) can distract them and take their mind off the fact they are here. I’m really impressed with what these kids have done.”
Alex Hinojosa may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6137.