Faced with a surplus of teddy bears from a past program, the students at Hofstra University Hillel combined their tzedek (social justice) and fundraising skills last month to put smiles on the faces of many ill children. Students planned a teddy-bear sale on campus with an extra incentive to buyers: With each bear purchased, the group would donate another bear to a local hospital.
Though the money raised during the sale went to Hofstra Hillel for programming, the student organizers' primary goal was to spread joy and provide furry friends for the patients at the Schneider Children's Hospital in nearby Manhasset.
"We simply wanted to help others and open people's eyes to the importance of tikkun olam [repairing the world] and what it means to give to others," said Jessie Barthlow, the social-action chair at Hofstra Hillel who helped to plan the sale.
"Students were excited. As soon as we started selling, we sold out of the bears we had on the table," said Stephanie Ringel, Hofstra Hillel's Jewish student life coordinator.
Hofstra Hillel Director Meir Mitelman delivered the bears to the hospital, which is affiliated with the Long Island Jewish Health System, and serves children and young adults who require short-term care. Though the bears were destined for the child life department, they proved popular with slightly older patients as well.
"All of the bears had been given out to residents within one and a half days, and even a young man asked if he could have one of the bears," Ringel said.
The project was Hofstra Hillel's first collaboration with the hospital, but students and professionals hope it won't be the last. They also plan on including new programs with local senior citizens on the Hillel calendar during the spring semester, according to Barthlow.