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Girls seek to give lasting comfort to the sick

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

A special charity is getting off the ground at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. It is an idea born from the imaginations of three McDonough sisters.

Four years ago, the sisters - Anna, 13, Audrey, 11, and Sarah, 8 - started a fund-raiser to earn money that would go toward "building" four bears that would be given to patients at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.

"They worked really hard to come up with the money to make [the bears]," said Cyndi Buttermore, the girls' mother.

Buttermore said the idea actually started when her daughters first made the connection between illness and comfort. "They were just playing one day," she said. "And they saw a commercial for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and they talked about how they could help make the patients there feel better. They said they wanted to make bears for children in the hospital."

The sisters recently created the charity, known as "Bears 4 Hope," on a larger scale, and are in the process of earning their 501c3 nonprofit status.

Joined by 12-year-old Madelyn Mize, of White, Ga., the group's goal is to bring comfort to as many Children's Healthcare patients as possible.

On Sunday, the four girls purchased and created 250 stuffed teddy bears. The stuffed toys range in cost from $10 to $20, and will be delivered and distributed to Scottish Rite at 1 p.m., on July 16.

"Pretty much, it's their idea, their work," Buttermore said.

The group's motto, "a bear and a smile 4 every child," is ringing its cadence across metro Atlanta. So far, Bears 4 Hope has been able to raise $5,000 for its latest project, and future projects. About $3,500 was raised during a June 21 fund-raiser in Kennessaw.

"I was overjoyed," said 13-year-old Anna Buttermore. "I could not believe it."

Bears 4 Hope put part of its funds toward building the teddy bears, saving some for future children's hospital charities.

"We love doing community service and helping people," Anna said. "We thought this was a way to give kids in the hospital a friend, because it can be lonely. It gives them something to hold on to while they're sick."

The eldest in the group, Anna said she believes the charity will eventually expand to include many more at other hospitals.

"They're extremely excited," Anna said of her cohorts. "They just love doing what they doing - making bears and helping the children and bringing smiles to sick kids' faces ... It's really easy. Anybody can do it."

Scottish Rite serves about 250 children and young adults, from birth to age 21. Many philanthropic organizations have made similar contributions to the hospital, but none on the all-reaching scale of Bears 4 Hope, said Laura Langdon, Scottish Rite's volunteer coordinator.

"We have different groups of individuals that do this, but I would say this is the first time we've had an organization that has tried to do them all," Langdon said.

She said the group of girls took the necessary 250 stuffed teddy bears for 250 patients as a doable challenge. "At first, they were shocked, and then, they were excited," she said. "They're a great group of girls.

"There are a lot of conditions in our hospital, from cancer to blood disorders to rehabilitation patients," Langdon said. "It can get lonely at times to stay in the hospital. But regardless of their condition, a stuffed toy can brighten the day of a child of any age. It brightens their day to know that someone has taken the time to donate and put that together."

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On the net:

Bears 4 Hope:

www.bears4hope.com