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Tuesday, December 23, 2003
4th Graders in Exeter Help Children in Crisis

"Hi. I hope you like this stuffed animal. I'll bet it likes you." "Don't worry. Things will get better. Enjoy this stuffed animal." These are just two of the hundreds of messages attached to hundreds of plush bears from fourth graders at Metcalf Elementary in Exeter, Rhode Island.

Now part of a program to get youth involved in helping other children in crisis, these Red Cross Youth Volunteers gathered over 200 new stuffed animals and attached comforting notes of encouragement. They wanted to make a difference, and that's exactly what they did. The students of Louise Martin's fourth grade class joined forces with Kathie Costa's and Danielle Smith's fourth grade classes and decided on December 1st to collect stuffed bears for victims of disasters in our state. Less than a month and 200 toys later, they finished their drive and delivered the toys to the American Red Cross of Rhode Island.

"The toys could not have come at a more needed time. This year has already proved to be a harsh one for over 400 children in Rhode Island," commented Barbara McGann, Chief Executive Officer of The American Red Cross of Rhode Island. "It's amazing the effect a stuffed animal can have on a child after they have lost everything in a fire.  We are ever so grateful to the students of Metcalf Elementary for their generous support of children in crisis," McGann continued.

About 400 Rhode Island children are affected by house fires each year. When their parents seem distraught beyond belief—a plush stuffed animal is sometimes the only thing that can make a child feel secure. A Red Cross of Rhode Island disaster volunteer relayed the story of a young child whose home was still burning when the Red Cross arrived on scene. The child was crying and clinging to her Dad but he had other matters to attend to. The Red Cross volunteer knelt down by the child and gave her a stuffed bear. The child sat down, wiped her tears and comforted the bear. Sometimes, that's all it takes.

In 2003, the Red Cross of Rhode Island provided emergency food, clothing and shelter to over 1,000 individuals displaced by house fires. All Red Cross assistance is free, thanks to contributions from individuals and organizations. The Red Cross is not a government agency and relies on private donations to provide emergency assistance to Rhode Islanders in crisis.

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