Teddy bears that were donated to Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed in a school shooting in December, have made their way to Aiken.
About 150 teddy bears and other stuffed animals were donated to the Aiken County Animal Shelter and the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, according to Jennifer Miller, president of Friends of the Animal Shelter. They were delivered to the shelter on Tuesday. On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, killing 20 students and six employees.
Teddy bears were donated to Newtown in response to a donation drive initiated by local Connecticut residents in the aftermath of the shooting, Miller said. By Dec. 23, thousands of bears – including 7,000 from the state of Arkansas – had been donated to the towns’ children.
Chris Kelsey, the town tax assessor with whom Miller spoke, recently told USA Today the town has received 62,000 teddy bears and stuffed animals, 561 boxes of toys, 60 bicycles, about 2,000 boxes of school supplies, 89 boxes of backpacks, 79 boxes of tissues, 45 boxes of books, 27 boxes of pillows and 22 boxes of new jackets.
“I was reading in the paper that they had warehouses full of so many stuffed animals, and they had so many they couldn’t really use them all,” Miller said. “I said, ‘Hey, maybe they’d be willing to let us have some.’”
Miller contacted the person in charge of the warehouse, who agreed to donate a palate of animals, she said. She also spoke with UPS and was able to get a discount on the shipping for charity.
“We both get puppies coming into the shelter and need foster homes for our puppies,” Miller said. “Sometimes, we get 20 or 30 a day.”
Miller said the puppies love to play and snuggle with the stuffed animals.
“It keeps them warm. A lot of times, they come in here without a mother,” she said. “That puppy there, Scooby, came here by himself.”
“It helps socialize them, too, especially individual puppies that come in by themselves,” said Gary Willoughby, president of Aiken SPCA. “They don’t’ have another companion, so they can feel more comfortable playing with a toy.”
Miller said FOTAS is in need of foster homes for the puppies. Foster home puppies are puppies that are less than 12 weeks old when they come to the shelter.
“A lot of times when these puppies come in, they’re too young to be adopted,” she said. “They have to get two sets of shots and be about 12 weeks old. They need to get their inoculations and they need to be in a quiet, healthy environment. Unfortunately, the shelter is an open floor plan and these cages aren’t conducive.”
Anyone interested in providing a foster home for a puppy has to come to the shelter, complete the application and request a standard home inspection, according to Miller. A County staff member will then inspect the home to make sure it is adequate.
The shelter is also offering a special on its adoptions, Miller said. The normal cost to adopt a dog or cat is $70, but through March 2, it has been reduced to $35. That includes the price of adoption, microchip, shots and spaying or neutering.
“We really need help with the fostering,” she said. “You’re helping to save a life.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.