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Dickinson students launch Cuddles For Kids

Leadership Dickinson's 12 high school seniors are raising funds to buy teddy bears for the hospital and police and fire departments, among other agencies, to give to children. They're calling the program Cuddles for Kids.

"When they're in those times of crisis, when they're feeling scared, lonely or lost, they'll have a teddy bear," Marisa Armstrong, program co-director, said. "That will be theirs to keep."

She added, "If we're not here for the children in our community, who is? It's our job to support them."

Each bear will wear a t-shirt that says Cuddles for Kids and come with an encouraging note written by local elementary school students.

The project was conceived by the Leadership Dickinson students, Armstrong said.

"All of our students are very active in their schools, in their churches, and in the community already," she said. "We want them to get a little more than just volunteer work. We want them to actually initiate a project."

The students all submitted proposals, which were evaluated based on time and effort required, with the top three returned for consideration.

"The actual Leadership Dickinson students discuss it and they decide on one project to do as a group," Armstrong said. "We want them to plan it, initiate it and follow through with it."

The students have contacted local agencies to find out how many bears per month are needed and are seeking sponsors in the community to provide funds to buy the bears.

The bears have to be specially ordered, rather than directly donated, Armstrong said.

"When we bring things into the hospital, even social services, we have to make sure we follow some guidelines for health and safety," she said. "They can't have the eyes on them, because it's a choking hazard."

Leadership Dickinson has set Feb. 15 as a tentative start date for the project.

The students hope the program will become a permanent one in Dickinson, Armstrong said.

"They're working toward making it not just a one-month shot. They're looking at longer-term," she said. "I would hope to see this program not only be successful, but become something we can continue on in the community after the students graduate."

Armstrong said she is impressed by the initiative being shown by the group's students.

"They're already so involved and they're already pushing themselves, and we're maybe asking them to go further, pushing them in a little different direction," she said. "The growth we see in them personally and their leadership, how they step out of their comfort zone, it's outstanding to see that."

To become a Cuddles for Kids sponsor, visit " target="_blank">www.dickinsonchamber.org/cuddles-for-kids/.

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