York students give Valentine’s Day bear hugs to sick children in Charlotte area

York Comprehensive High School students made Valentine’s Day extra special for families and children dealing with serious illnesses.

The students spent Sunday at the Build-A-Bear Workshop in Pineville, N.C., making more than 500 of the stuffed animals for Charlotte area hospitals and the Ronald McDonald House. The bears were each named by those who donated money, according to York school district.

The students on Thursday unloaded 250 at the Ronald McDonald House, which provides temporary housing near hospitals for families of children receiving treatment.

The other bears went to Levine Children’s Hospital and Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, said Ryan Poston, principal of York Comprehensive.

Two bears also were donated to York families with sick children, Poston said.

It’s the second year York Comprehensive has hosted its “Build a Bear, Build a Heart” campaign, Poston said.

Poston said his wife started the program in 2007 at Independence High School in Charlotte. The program was transitioned to York.

Since the start of the program, high school students have donated more than 5,000 bears to sick children and their families, Poston said.

“We could not be happier or more proud of our kids,” he said. “They have really taken this project and ran with it.”

Students and staff, along with York community members, raise money to buy bears at $10 a piece from Build-A-Bear, Poston said. Last year, they donated 430 bears to Charlotte hospitals and Ronald McDonald House.

“Our community has rallied around this,” Poston said. “There are so many people in our community who have been helped by Ronald McDonald House or Levine Children’s Hospital.”

The bears left at the Ronald McDonald House will go to families who stay at the house, said Kristin Young, spokesperson for the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte. The bears will go to sick children who stay at the house with their family or to siblings of children in the hospital.

“These Build-A-Bears will help bring a smile to a child’s face when they’re staying here, whether its a sibling of a child who is sick or injured or if it’s that child themselves,” Young said. “This will bring that little joy and that little comfort of home when they’re checking in.”

It’s the thought of those smiles that makes the project special, said Jamya Brice, a senior at York Comprehensive High School and student body president.

“As students, we really take something out of this more than we give,” said Brice, 18. “It means a lot to us because we do have people that have fought with the cancer battle and any type of childhood disease. We learn how to give back to our community in different ways.”

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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