Rachels Hug a Bears

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Daily Pilot
October 22, 2007

Grades of good deeds
By Kelly Strodl

Rachel Rosenblum has always had a love of teddy bears. And at an early age she decided to make sure all kids have their very own teddies to comfort them when they sleep.

“I was 4 and had about $60 saved up in my piggy bank and I wanted to give to the hospital,” Rachel, 11, said.

But instead of simply handing over cold cash, Rachel asked her parents if she could donate stuffed teddy bears to kids living in medical care facilities.

For the first batch Rachel was able to give 12 bears with the money from her savings but did not stop there. Since that first donation Sara has contributed more than 1,000 bears to local Orange County hospitals.

She brought more than 100 of those to Mitzvah Day Sunday at Temple Bat Yahm Religious School in Newport Beach.

The entire school, grades first through seventh, donated time and materials to various causes in honor of Tikkun Olam, or, “repair of our world.”

Each grade worked on different mitzvahs — commandments or good deeds — showing that every person can make a difference in the world, school officials said.

The school’s sixth graders, including Rachel, made care packages for soldiers serving in Iraq. Each package included magazines, fruit snacks, candy, gum, beef jerky and a letter from one of the students, plus stamped and addressed return envelopes.

Rachel said she was eager to write to one of the soldiers, even though she did not know who would receive her letter.

“I thought it was easy to write,” Rachel said. “I just told stories about my grandpa who fought in WWII. He earned a silver star.”

The school’s seventh graders baked cat and dog treats from scratch using flour, corn meal, eggs and tuna.

The students plan on selling the snacks to pet owners in two weeks and will donate the proceeds to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. This nonprofit animal rescue mission medically treats and rehabilitates injured sea animals.

One of the 613 mitzvahs is kindness to animals, but since the students were not allowed to volunteer at the animal shelters for legal reasons, Barry Koff, the school’s assistant director and seventh grade instructor, got creative.

“They’re learning by doing rather than reading,” Koff said. “In this way we bring the Torah to life.”

A few of the students tried the finished product despite the strong odor of fish, and some even enjoyed the snacks.

Cutting the dough for the cat snacks, 11-year-old Sara Cohen said she preferred making the treats over tasting them.

“At first it was kind of disgusting with all the tuna,” Sara said. “but then it got kind of fun.”

Other projects from the school included collecting pairs of shoes for donation to Soles4Souls from the third grade class.

The group hands out paired shoes to disaster victims, the poverty stricken, homeless, and Hurricane Katrina victims.

The fourth grade class packed lunches that will be taken to Costa Mesa-based Serving People in Need and the Friendship Shelter out of Laguna Beach. There the meals will be handed out to the homeless.

The fifth graders collected items for Sports Gift, an Orange County group that refurbishes lightly used sports equipment and distributes it to underprivileged children.

Daily Pilot
Friday, December 21, 2001

Kindergartner inspires beary merry holidays
Deirdre Newman

NEWPORT COAST -- When Rachel Rosenblum was in preschool, she organized a teddy bear drive for children at Children's Hospital of Orange County. Now that she's a kindergartner at Newport Coast Elementary School, she is again taking the initiative to make the children's lives at CHOC a little brighter.

The school adopted the 5 1/2-year-old's idea, and, over the past month the students in the lower grades have gathered close to 100 teddy bears. They will be delivered today. "It's kids helping kids," said Claire Bianchi, the school's outreach coordinator.

The teddy bear drive started last year when Rachel's preschool encouraged the students to do something nice over the holidays. Rachel wanted to donate some of her teddy bears but the hospital requested new ones, so she saved up her money to buy two dozen. With the help of her preschool, they gathered about 200 to donate. Rachel said she thought the children at CHOC would enjoy the bears "so they won't be scared." "They can hold them in their hands," Rachel said. To motivate her fellow students at Newport Coast, Rachel spoke at an assembly, sharing her inspiration.

"I was impressed with her composure," said Principal Monique VanZeeBroeck. "I was pretty amazed that a kindergarten student would come up with an idea that was simple but powerful." Rachel's dad, David, said he's impressed with his daughter's compassion.

"It's just a proud feeling to know your child wants to help kids," David Rosenblum said. "When they're this age, usually it's me, me, me." The upper grades will participate in their own teddy bear drive in the spring.

Orange County Register
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mission Viejo girl gives gift of bears An 11-year-old girl starts an organization that donates teddy bears to children in CHOC.

MISSION VIEJO – With $60 in rolled coins she headed to the bank to cash in her treasure.

A 4-year-old Rachel Rosenblum was deciding what she wanted to buy with the money she had saved. Would she get a sassy new Barbie doll or a colorful toy tea set? But Rachel actually had something different in mind – she wanted to make a contribution.

The charismatic girl bought teddy bears that she dressed up and gave to sick children at Children's Hospital of Orange County in Mission Viejo. “I couldn't believe it,” said Tiffany, her mother. “I am really proud of her. She really wants to help people.” That was seven years ago and Rachel hasn't stopped since. Now 11, she has collected and donated more than 3,000 bears. Her latest collection was at her school, Cardin Academy in Mission Viejo, on Nov. 8 and 9. “I love helping, especially helping kids,” Rachel said. “It makes me feel really good.”

Students at the K-8 private school collected more than 200 bears. No two stuffed critters look quite the same. Some are big brown and fluffy; some are colorful, plush and pretty while others are soft, crisp white with sparkles.

They are given to patients with a personalized card attached. Rachel and her mom are in the process of making her organization a nonprofit in the hopes that it will grow and help more children.

Rachel recently met someone at her school who received a stuffed bear years ago. Fellow classmate Sierra Hansen, 12, was given a hug-a-bear when she was 7 and in the hospital for appendicitis.

“It cheered me up. It was very comforting,” Hansen said of the burgundy-colored bear that she says she will never part with. Rachel collects bears a couple times a year by having drives at schools, with her Girl Scout troop and at her temple. CHOC at Mission likes to make sure each of its patients has a stuffed animal. Rachel's hug-a-bears make up about 75 percent of the hospital's stuffed animals, according to Melissa Kawanaka, a child life specialist at CHOC at Mission.

“She is the sweetest girl and she puts forth so much work,” Kawanaka said. “It's so much of her doing. Her parents help her, but it's all her idea. It's a labor of love.”

Orange County Register
Thursday, November 2, 2000

Piggy bank launches teddy bear drive
A 4-year-old girl’s brainstorm benefits young patients at a Mission Viejo hospital.

By Tom Berg

Mission Viejo – No one knows what triggered all this, as the instigator is only 4. She can barely spell her name.

But in the past three months, preschooler Rachel Rosenblum of Newport Coast has donated 29 new teddy bears to Children’s Hospital at mission. And she plans on coming back in December with more.

“This is extremely unique,” Conni Van Billiard said Wednesday, after accepting three bags of teddybears from the 3-foot-9 Rosenblum, who needed help carrying them. “This is a child who’s going to do some amazing things in her life.”

What is known is that Rachel’s piggy bank filled in June with loose change from around the house and from grandparents. Rachel and her mom hopped in the car to exchange it for bills at the bank. That’s when Tiffany Rosenblum asked her daughter what she wanted to do with the money.

“She said she wanted to give it to sick children,” Tiffany Rosenblum said. “I couldn’t believe it because it wasn’t an option I’d given her. I said, “Should we donate the money?” and she said, “What if we bought teddy bears?”

Rachel can’t remember where she got the idea. But it took flight. The initial $60 in her piggy bank bought 12 teddy bears, donated in August. Then her mom wrote letters to all of Rachel’s friends, and they collected 17 more, donated Wednesday.

In December, she plans to return with more teddy bears collected from her classmates at Temple Bat Yahm preschool in Newport Beach. November is “mitzvah” or “good deed” month there, and already five classmates have donated teddy bears to her.

The bears help children who are scared of pain, IV’s and lab tests, said Dr. Gary Goodman. “They’re very special. They give kids a personalized gift.”