Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 12, 2013

Students at Kokomo international schools give back

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

— First-grader Zoey Ausbrook hugged her Build-A-Bear tightly last week before sending it off to its new home at Community Howard Regional Health.

Zoey recently stuffed, bathed and accessorized the bear herself. She named it Melody.

And she hopes Melody makes some child at the hospital very happy.

“We wanted to make the kids feel better,” she said.

Zoey and 21 of her classmates at Lafayette Park Elementary School made teddy bears to give to patients in the behavioral health program at Community Howard.

It was part of a community service project at the international school.

“They’re learning to be caring and giving,” said first-grade teacher Dawn Wysong.

Those are principles taught at all international baccalaureate schools.

Central International Middle School students recently collected washcloths for an orphanage in India. It was part of their unit focusing on South Asia.

“I wanted the humanities students to know that we are part of the global world, and what affects other parts of the world can affect us and vice versa,” teacher Pat O’Brien explained. “Central is part of an international society that needs to work together for the betterment of all people.”

The students collected 371 washcloths for the 50 children at the orphanage.

Suzy Roth, executive director of Hands of Hope, explained to the Central students that the children at the orphanage have no provisions for hygiene needs before they enter Faith in Deeds Orphanage.

“It is people like the Central students who make a difference for our children,” Roth said. “Washcloths wear out, so we always need washcloths.”

When Roth delivered the washcloths to the orphanage, she was told those were the first ones the children ever owned.  The “dad” at the orphanage gave a demonstration on how to use them.

The students in Wysong’s class knew exactly what to do with the bears, though.

They hugged them tight and gave them names. Some even pretended their bears were talking.

But when it came time to give them up, the children understood what they had to do.

Officials at the hospital were surprised to see how well Wysong’s class learned the spirit of giving.

It’s hard for kids so young to give up a teddy bear they made themselves, said Debbie McGuckin, clinical director for behavioral health services at the hospital.

But the kids Friday turned over their bears without a fight. McGuckin said they really seemed to care about the project.

Zoey admitted it was a bit hard for her to give away Melody. But she knows how important the bears are.

She remembers being in the hospital to have her tonsils removed. She was afraid, she said.

“I was screaming for my mommy,” Zoey said.

That day she got a brand new, green teddy bear. She wasn’t as scared after that.

Christy Harvey, clinical team leader for inpatient behavioral health services at the hospital, talked to the children Friday.

“Thanks so much for being so thoughtful,” she said. “You’re helping out so many little boys and girls.”

She said there are patients who miss their “mommies and daddies,” but the bears will make them feel more at home.

McGuckin said the bears will make a huge difference to some of their patients.

“The bears are extremely important, especially for kids who are scared and hurt or feeling sad,” she said. “It gives them something to love and take care of.”

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition