Red Bank High School students offer 'hugs' to kids in distress

Red Bank High School students offer 'hugs' to kids in distress

February 9th, 2013 by Lindsay Burkholder in Local Regional News

Gwendolyn Mynatt, left, and Keyanna Tatum add donated stuffed animals Thursday to more than 50 toys at Red Bank High. Student coucil president Matthew Smith, right, helped head-up the 26 Hugs project designated for kids at emergency scenes.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

How to help

Anyone who would like to donate can bring a new stuffed animal with the tags still on it to the Red Bank High School front office through Feb. 15.

The Red Bank High School student council is hosting a Valentine's Day stuffed animal drive in honor of the Sandy Hook shooting.

They are calling the drive "26 Hugs" -- one hug for each of the Sandy Hook victims.

"We wanted to do something together as Red Bank, as a community and as a school," said senior Lynn Tran.

The students have been working hard to get the program started, sometimes coming in as early as 6:30 a.m. to prepare.

"I'm really excited about their program," said Deb Weiss, the school's student council sponsor. "I'm really excited because it's their program. It's something they've decided to do. They're pushing it."

The toys will be donated to local first-responders to give to children in emergency situations.

Keyanna Tatum, a senior, recalls a situation in which a stuffed animal helped to comfort her.

"When I was in kindergarten, I broke my femur and got a bear like that." She said the toy made a big difference during an otherwise scary time.

The students hope to make sure other children can be comforted in the same way.

"We're showing people that we do actually care about our community," said Tatum. "We care about things that are happening in the world, and we do have bright students here who are willing to make a difference."

Weiss said she'd seen a number of students participating.

"It really is touching all of our population here, and that's what we want," Weiss said. "We want all of our kids to feel like they're a part of something bigger than themselves."

The student council is guarding the furry hoard in its office until it can be handed over to emergency services. The fuzzy likenesses of monkeys, bears and dogs are piled in bins and buckets around the room.

So far, they've collected about 50 toys and hope to get many more. The drive will continue through Feb. 15.