Monday, February 22, 2010

Bear Hugs for Haiti

They have emerged from the rubble, surviving nothing less than hell. But their little eyes and short lives have witnessed more, have lost more, than most of us can imagine.

Bear Hugs for Haiti is now making the pain these little ones from Haiti are enduring a little easier. As they head for and arrive in a new land and life in America, those ready to help them heal--including soldiers, the Red Cross and state child care workers--will now be armed with extra doses of love.

"Bear Hugs for Haiti, that is exactly what we need more of. More bear hugs for children because when these children come into this airport, they have really been traumatized," says Jaqui Colyer, Regional Administrator of the Florida Department of Children and Family Services.

"The Red Cross feeds them, but this feeds their soul," Colyer told CBS4's Michele Gillen. "So that's what I really want to give these children, and because of you this is possible. Thank you very much."

The Adopt-a-Bear campaign is sponsored by CBS4's Neighbors 4 Neighbors.

It's an important cause for Lacy Hoover, chairman of the Herbert Hoover Foundation, which is dedicated to the care and education of children. She immediately agreed to jump start the project. The foundation is donating $10,000 for the first wave of bears.

"If we can do something right now to make it a bit easier to get through this and welcome the children into this country and hopefully a better phase of their life, that becomes incredibly important," said Hoover. "I hope these children get a touch of caring and realize there are people there to help them.

Hoover adds that the concept of the Neighbors 4 Neighbors Adopt-a-Bear campaign--getting teddy bears into the hands of abused, neglected and traumatized children--is one that needs to stay.

"I hope that people jump on this campaign," said Hoover. "This is something that should be a permanent program,and people contribute to this because even beyond these kids in Haiti this is something I think should be a permanent program. (It) can help so many ways in this community and beyond. We are honored do be a part of this."

The effort and support to get the bears into the hands of the youngest earthquake survivors has the support of both mother and son: Colton Hoover Chase, a trustee of the Herbert Hoover Foundation, is encouraging young people to step up to the plate and adopt a bear.

"We have got everybody to get their friends to join," said Colton Hoover. "It's vital for the children's happiness. I think it is the least we can do. From my generation we need to give out a helping hand and show the world that we as a generation care about each other and we want to make each others lives better."

Adding to the rescue of souls, the heroes at UPS are waving shipping costs so more donations can go for more bears.

"The program that Channel 4 has for the bears is so important to the children, and UPS understands that the children are so special,' says Tom O'Malley, Vice President UPS, Air Cargo Latin America.

He met with Gillen and described the passion behind the UPS commitment to Bear Hugs for Haiti.

"And its not just the mental anguish and the physical anguish they are going through, but its something for the heart and UPS wants to be a part of that," said O'Malley.

The effort is setting in motion a grass roots project that will hopefully take on a life of its own.

"I think we all have a responsibility to do what is right. And as people who are much more fortunate than those people in Haiti we have an obligation to help them use Facebook and Twitter, and show your friends you are doing something to help these people. And your friends will show someone, and you never know what could happen. The smallest little action can help save the world. It just starts with yourself," says Colton Hoover.

The men and woman at the Homestead Air Force Base are poised to receive hundreds of more bears Tuesday. Their littlest visitors can be assured of a furry friend to hug.

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