Matthews – Mint Hill Weekly
“I remember being sad … and the lady giving me the blanket, which made me feel so much better,” she said.
Now 16 years old, Emily still treasures that blanket and recently felt inspired to give the same sense of comfort to kids going through traumatic situations.
“While I never went through something traumatic, I know how much it can lift your spirits,” she said.
Emily initially intended to donate her gently-used stuffed animals to a local cause, but couldn’t find an organization that was accepting stuffed animals for kids. She realized there was a need for it and, in December 2013, decided to venture out on her own to collect stuffed animals and create stuffed animal-sized fleece blankets to distribute to organizations that support children facing challenging circumstances.
Emily, a Butler High School student, said she’s received a lot of support from school friends and fellow ballet dancers at Robinson Presbyterian Church Ballet. Emily has collected 97 stuffed animals and designed corresponding fleece blankets with her friends at “blanket parties” at her home.
Emily gave a presentation to the Matthews Board of Commissioners about the Buddy Project, during the board’s May 11 meeting. Emily formed a partnership with Matthews Police Department Chief Rob Hunter that evening and donated 21 stuffed animals and blankets to the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department later that night. She also has made donations to Levine Children’s Hospital.
Hunter said it’s been beneficial for police officers to have the stuffed animals and blankets to give to children facing trauma. He said officers keep the stuffed animals and blankets on hand in case circumstances arise, such as traffic crashes and domestic violence incidents in which children are involved and need extra support.
“Most of our police officers have children themselves, and it becomes paining to respond to those situations,” he said. “The stuffed animals help them to have a positive impact on those kids.”
Hunter believes offering something comforting can have a lasting emotional impact on a child and potentially give them enough “hope to break the cycle” of abuse or neglect that led to their current situation. Hunter said, unfortunately, statistics show children who have abusive parents often end up as high school dropouts or abusers themselves, but he feels one selfless act has the potential to propel positive change in their lives.
Hunter said he’s grateful to Emily for her act of service.
“Emily has a true heart for service,” he said. “Sometimes we take pleasure, when we see the joy on others’ faces and purposely align ourselves to take part in the effect of our actions; however, Emily will not likely see the children whose lives she affects, and yet she still dedicates her time to make a difference.”
Emily hopes to touch more lives by extending her collection drive to the community. She recently set up collection boxes at the Matthews town hall, located at 232 Matthews Station St., and asks community members to donate new or gently-used, medium-sized stuffed animals, with price tags intact when possible.
Emily also is collecting handmade stuffed animal-sized fleece blankets, which are 24-inch-by-24-inch blankets with 4-inch fringe. She said the blankets are easy to make and directions are widely available for this craft, which does not require sewing.
“It means a lot that I can make a difference in one kid’s life – brighten their day or week,” she said, adding she believes the gift is not just a physical gift, but also provides an emotional connection between giver and receiver. “I hope they remember the hope they got and the joy and happiness in receiving one.”
Interested in donating stuffed animals or making stuffed animal-sized blankets for kids in need? Contact Emily Sharpe at email@example.com.