Jake and the Power of a Stuffed Animal to Bring Joy

A few months ago, a mom called and asked if I would like her son to collect stuffed animals for seniors. Jake is a 7th grader from Bucks County. For his Bar Mitzvah project, he contacted family and friends and asked for their assistance. He sent an email out to everybody that he thought would like to help and also posted flyers at the gym.

His mom was excited to tell me that he had collected 100 stuffed animals and about 15 blankets. And, that the family would like to accompany me, on Christmas Eve to deliver the canine creatures to a nursing home in Philadelphia.

We arrived at about the same time and it sure looked like a lot more than 100 stuffed animals. When they actually counted them, they had 413 stuffed animals. And these were not any just plain old run-0f-the- mill stuffed animals – these were big, cuddly and so soft. It looked like they had 13 trash bags filled to overflowing. Pups, horses and all kinds of paws that reminded the residents of a former pet.

I know that they are a very close-knit family because Jake told me that his aunts helped out a lot with his project.

We walked in together and started passing them out in the breakfast area. These two adorable children were so sweet and kind. No nervousness, no fear of the new faces staring at them. Just two happy-go-lucky kids on a mission to bring joy with bags of shiny black fur, floppy ears, and black button noses.

As some residents held the stuffed animals, we knew it was love at first sight. We saw a few mile-wide smiles and smothering kisses.

Jake and Emmie knew intuitively who needed attention and just what kind of attention they needed. Jake smiled and the little sister watched her big brother and did the same. I guess we passed out about 50 stuffed animals in the activity areas and then the director told us about the many people who could not get out of their beds. The mom, dad and two youngsters went from room-to-room bringing joy to the bed-bound residents. Probably another 50 more.

Hi Staci, Lennie, Jake and Emmie,

Oh what a wonderful experience it was to have all of you with me on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t believe all of the bags of stuffed animals – all in absolutely perfect condition. Brand new, practically and all of the beautiful blankets, too. I just loved watching Jake and Emmie interact so lovingly with everyone. The tenderness that they showed to each resident was so beautiful to watch. Your children are so loved by you…and they know how to show love to others. I am so grateful for your help with the project and so happy that you came with me. Please come anytime! I know that all of your visits to the rooms just put smiles on the faces of the lonely people. You are the best!!!! I am wishing you a very happy holiday and a wonderful New Year!

With gratitude and admiration,


Dear Trisha,

Thank you for such beautiful sentiments, Trisha! We all had a wonderful experience with you and the residents! We have been talking about it all weekend, and Jake called his grandparents that day to tell him about his day. Thank you for the opportunity.


Have a happy and healthy new year as well!

Dear Staci,

Your family is just so wonderful. Watching your sweet and beautiful children just warmed my heart. They are truly beautiful, inside and out. A credit to you and their grandparents. How about when Jake stood in the front by himself and told about his project and introduced you? And how his sweet little Emmie watched him and followed his lead – both smiling for two hours – they sure brought sunshine into that place!!!!! Loved having you with me and watching the kids do their magic!

I think that we all had a sense of fulfillment on Christmas Eve. I loved the lesson that this mom and dad were teaching their children – about acts of service. As I looked around at the residents, I wondered: Who is lonely, homesick, and too shy to socialize? Who wants to go home to a family? And who is wondering if it was a mistake to come to live here?

Emmie and Jake spoke soothingly and softly. I think that the minds of the residents drifted back to happier days.


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