WESTFIELD — Sarah Chalabi of Westfield had to do something to help the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. After she heard about the horrible massacre in which 20 students were killed, Chalabi felt the need to provide comfort to the children.
“I decided right away that I wanted to make them smile and have someone to hug on a bad day, so I decided to collect teddy bears for them,” Chalabi said. “Teddy bears have big hearts and teddy bears give hugs.”
Chalabi began collecting bears, both in her hometown and at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, where she is a student. She made an announcement in front of her entire high school and her mother Yola put up a poster in her Westfield store, Winter Hill Antiques. People from the local and school communities responded by donating teddy bears by the dozens. After a month, Chalabi accumulated more than 500 bears.
Thousands of organizations made donations to the Newtown community to help the healing process. Due to the huge volume of donations and gifts from all over the world, six warehouses were filled and Newtown simply could not handle another shipment of goods.
Chalabi found a new home for her bears. Second grade students at Wardlaw-Hartridge ran a teddy bear drive in January to benefit Smile Bangladesh. Dr. Shahid Aziz is a member Smile Bangladesh, a non-profit medical organization based in New Jersey. Doctors and surgeons of this organization are dedicated to caring for children and adults afflicted with facial cleft deformities in Bangladesh and around the world. Dr. Aziz is taking the bears to Bangladesh in May to comfort children after surgery to repair cleft lip.
“I wanted the bears to go to a needy child and not be wasted. Dr. Aziz was collecting bears for Smile Bangladesh, a perfect home for my bears,” Chalabi said.
Chalabi decided to donate her bears to Smile Bangladesh in memory of the children of Sandy Hook. She wrote a letter to the school’s principal to share her story of kindness.
“I know they will go directly to children that will love their new buddies,” Chalabi said. “A little organization can open up incredibly generous hearts. It makes people smile and cry at the same time. If you put your mind to it, you can achieve miracles.”
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