Anna Rawlings is only 8 years old but she knows how to make good things happen.
wanted to hold a teddy bear drive to collect fuzzy friends to give to children facing traumatic circumstances. She had no doubt she could collect a thousand of them.
Her dad wasn’t so sure. “I was expecting maybe 200 bears,” said her father, Keith Rawlings of Kirkwood.
But over the course of a couple of weeks in February and March, donors deposited 1,300 brand-new teddy bears in drop-off boxes Anna and her dad provided at Kirkwood area churches and businesses.
The bears have all been distributed to emergency rooms and funeral homes in the St. Louis area, as well as to a group called Friends of Kids with Cancer and to tornado victims in the Sunset Hills area. A late-arriving batch of 90 more bears – collected by the Honor Society – may go to children affected by Friday’s tornadoes.
“She knows she’s touched a lot of lives,” Rawlings said. “It’s so simple in theory. I just never dreamed …. oh my gosh, that’s a lot of bears.”
Anna is no stranger to service projects. Her dad runs a nonprofit community service organization called Youth in Action. Members of the group helped put Anna’s plan into place.
Once the bears were in hand, the teenagers tied a special ribbon around each bear’s neck. The ribbons were printed with the name of Christina Taylor Green. Christina was the 9-year-old girl who was killed in January when a gunman in Tucson seriously wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
When Anna heard that a little girl just like her was killed in the shooting, she knew she wanted to do something. She came up with the idea for the Christina Taylor Green Teddy Bear Memorial.
“Anna said, ‘When kids are sad, they need to have something to hold,’” Rawlings said.
Anna even wrote a speech that she gave to classmates at Christ Community Lutheran School at Webster Gardens, where she is a second grader, encouraging her friends to donate.
She has been featured in news conferences and photo ops and has gotten to shake hands with mayors and hospital bigwigs. She even received a special proclamation from her state senator for her good deeds.
But she didn’t get to meet the people she was most worried about.
“I would really like to see the kids,” she said. “I really want to see them and cheer them up with a teddy bear.”