Three 6-year-olds carried a basket full of purple hippos and rainbow bears sealed in plastic bags. They walked with eight other children over a bridge and down some hallways until they arrived at the animals' final destination.

With five baskets full of purple platypuses, pink octopuses and patriotic bears, 11 students from Holy Family Catholic School dropped off more than 200 Beanie Babies and a Build-a-Bear to Akron Children's Hospital on Aug. 7.

Elena McHale, 38, of Stow, said her mother, 71-year-old Vilma Smith of Stow, collected Beanie Babies since they came out. They thought about doing something good with them and wanted to teach McHale's kids about giving to others.

"It just seemed to make sense to give kids a little bit of happiness," McHale said about having her three children and their friends give them to the hospital. She said they were also going to donate 40 more to the Stow Police Department.

Donating the Beanie Babies to the hospital is close to home to the McHale family for another reason. About four years ago, 8-year-old Rachel McHale received a pink Beanie Baby pig from the hospital to comfort her when she received stitches. She still has it.

"I know that was a really big source of comfort for her. It was kind of a scary time," McHale said. "We would like for other kids to have just a little bit of joy while they're going through a hard time whether it's sickness, illness, injury, whatever has happened to them."

Along with the hundreds of Beanie Babies, Gavin McHale, 10, also donated his black "Build-a-Bear" bear. Gerri Sexton, the hospital's volunteer office coordinator, said that it will make some boy really happy because the hospital doesn't always receive toys specifically for boys.

Sexton, who organized the visit with McHale, said giving a patient something cuddly makes them happy.

"When you're sick and you're not feeling well and sometimes the parents have to leave and they're by themselves, it's just nice to have a cuddly," she said. "It just makes them feel better."

Sexton said she is always touched when a young person gives to another young person.

"It's just touching to me that people are so generous and that they care so much about kids who are sick in the hospital," she said. "I just think that's so special and so remarkable."

Although they wanted to, the children couldn't pass out the Beanie Babies to patients. Sexton said because it is a children's hospital, it errs on the side of caution. Only people, like child life specialists, nurses and volunteers who work directly with patients who have passed background checks and have appropriate training, could pass out the toys.

"The people who do give the items to the kids are those that know the most about that child and know which ones really need a pick-me-up," Sexton said.

Despite being unable to meet patients, the children still hoped whoever gets a Beanie Baby loves it.

"I hope that they enjoy them in the hospital, and I hope they get well," said 8-year-old Jack Macinga. "And I hope that they have a great time with them."


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