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Stuffed bears for military kids

Jackson Gravelle, Brady Anderson and Colby Olson have a laugh as they stuff their bears. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 3
Roosevelt Elementary School fourth graders Alivia Harris Meyers and Kaylee Smith show off their finished teddy bears they made for military children Wednesday morning. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 3
Roosevelt Elementary School fourth graders helped stuff 300 teddy bears in the school's gym Wednesday morning. Photo by - Brian Basham3 / 3

Detroit Lakes students are doing their part to take care of their own this holiday season.

Nearly 300 students from Roosevelt Elementary and Holy Rosary took time out of class Wednesday morning to stuff teddy bears.

The project is being sponsored by AmericInn employees of Detroit Lakes, who did the fundraising for the Becker County area, raising about $3,000 for the project.

The 300 teddy bears, which come as just material and Velcro, were stuffed by the helping hands of third- and fourth-graders. They will then be placed in the hands of those who may need it the most -- children whose parents are in the military.

"Military families really do go through sacrifices and hardships," said Andrea Sieling, assistant manager at the Detroit Lakes AmericInn. "And it can be especially hard on children who miss their mom or dad, and so it's important to show them that we really do care and support them."

Detroit Lakes students are showing their own support by decorating the teddy bears' t-shirts with little messages of encouragement.

Roosevelt fourth-grader Lilianna Rivas says she thinks it would be tough to be a military kid. "If I could talk to one of them, I'd tell them that God will be there -- that's why I wrote 'God loves you.'"

Fellow classmate Easton Gravelle also believes those children could use extra blessings, as he decorated his bear's t-shirt to say "God bless you."

"I wrote this because their mom or dad might go into the war," said Easton, who says he sees things on the news about it, and it looks scary. "And they don't get to see their mom or dad for a long time -- I wouldn't like that," he said.

Fourth-grader Jayden Hansen knows a little bit about that situation, as she says her aunt and uncle are both in the military, and that has her cousin moving around all the time. "So it's hard for her," said Jayden, "I just tell her 'it's OK, they'll come back.'"

This is the second year the AmericInn put together a project like this, but last year it was for the actual troops as they sent over 60 care packages to local military members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Last year, when the packages were going to the troops, we had adults packing them," said Sieling. "This year, because they are going to kids, we thought it would be neat for the students to get involved -- so it's sort of like from kid to another."

Although Sieling says they may not have much more than 25 or so active duty military families in the Becker County area on their list, they wanted to make enough bears so that each child of each family received their own bear.

"I wish I could keep this bear," laughed fourth-grader Evelyn Erickson as she decorated the bear's t-shirt in stars and a big 'U.S.A.' "But I hope he or she likes it a lot and it makes them happy."

In addition to the teddy bears, they are also packing up bags full of family activities like puzzles, games and popcorn to hand out to each family.

Everything will be handed out Wednesday evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. during an open house at the AmericInn.

Any left over bears or bags will be given to the Yellow Ribbon Campaign to be distributed to other military children outside of the region.

"I guarantee, these bears will find a home with a military kid somewhere," said Sieling.