Hillel of Greater Baltimore students brought smiles to the faces of sick children in the Baltimore area last week by creating personalized teddy bears at a local Build-A-Bear store. Using bios of the children, the students custom-designed 40 bears to match each child's interests and hobbies and then distributed the bears to the children at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Ronald McDonald House the following day.
The participants were all members of ORAH: Jewish College Women in Baltimore, which is affiliated with Hillel at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). ORAH members gather to socialize and do community service one Saturday night each month. The group also includes students from Goucher College, Towson University and Johns Hopkins University.
"I think working with children is very important," said Rella Kaplowitz, a UMBC junior and ORAH leader. "I thought this would be fun and very fulfilling. When you visit them, you see the smile on their faces - you can't describe the feeling. It's great."
The visits were uplifting for both the patients and their parents, whose days are often consumed with doctors and hospitals.
"This is an experience that she'll remember in a positive way. Unlike getting stuck with needles every day, finally something good happened to her while she was here, and she'll never forget it," said the parent of the children at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
The project was funded by the students themselves in addition to funds given to the program by a donor from the Baltimore community, as well as Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Additionally, Build-A-Bear gave a 10 percent discount off the cost of creating each bear.
"This was an amazing program," said Jody Peskin, the Jewish student life coordinator at UMBC Hillel. "I'd like it to be a building block toward a really strong Jewish women's program at UMBC."