Newtown teddy bears offer canine to Aiken animals

Aiken StandardMarch 2, 2013 

— Teddy bears donated to Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed in a school shooting in December, have made their way to Aiken where they are comforting shelter animals.

About 150 teddy bears and other stuffed animals were donated to the Aiken County Animal Shelter and the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, said Jennifer Miller, president of Friends of the Animal Shelter.

On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, killing 20 students and six employees.

Teddy bears were donated to Newtown in response to a donation drive initiated by local Connecticut residents in the aftermath of the shooting. By Dec. 23, thousands of bears – including 7,000 from the state of Arkansas – had been donated to the towns' children.

Chris Kelsey, the town tax assessor , recently told USA Today the town had received 62,000 teddy bears and stuffed animals, 561 boxes of toys, 60 bicycles, about 2,000 boxes of school supplies, 89 boxes of backpacks, 79 boxes of tissues, 45 boxes of books, 27 boxes of pillows and 22 boxes of new jackets.

“I was reading in the paper that they had warehouses full of so many stuffed animals, and they had so many they couldn't really use them all,” Miller said. “I said, 'Hey, maybe they'd be willing to let us have some.'“

Miller contacted the person in charge of the warehouse, who agreed to donate a pallet of animals. Miller called UPS and was got a discount on the shipping because it was for charity.

“We both get puppies coming into the shelter and need foster homes for our puppies,” Miller said. “Sometimes, we get 20 or 30 a day.”

Miller said the puppies love to play and snuggle with the stuffed animals.

“It keeps them warm. A lot of times, they come in here without a mother,” she said. “That puppy there, Scooby, came here by himself.”

“It helps socialize them, too, especially individual puppies that come in by themselves,” said Gary Willoughby, president of Aiken SPCA. “They don't' have another companion, so they can feel more comfortable playing with a toy.”

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