East Syracuse When Kamrin Eischen had to go the hospital for surgery last summer, he was scared – until he received a Build-A-Bear on his hospital bed, and he immediately felt a little less nervous.
“I was kind of scared, and then when I saw the bear, it made me a little less scared - a little happier,” Eischen said. “And I thought since I liked it, other kids would like it too.”
Eischen, a fifth grader at East Syracuse Elementary, went to his principal to with an idea when the school year began.
“The incredible thing about this project is that it’s entirely student-driven,” said ESE principal Pat Charboneau. “He came into my office and said ‘What if we raised a whole lot of money to make bears for kids who might want them for Christmas?’ And he ended up raising almost $700 – it was amazing!”
Eischen teamed up with Windy Cardarelli, a teaching assistant in his fourth grade class last year and current fifth grade class, to make the project happen. They decided to name the campaign “Cheetah Paws for the Cause,” after ESE’s mascot, the cheetah. And when Charboneau suggested donating the bears to St. Matthew’s Church for its holiday distribution, they knew it was the perfect way to give back to the ESM community.
And in order to raise money to stuff the bears, Eischen thought it would be fun to hold a spirit day at school, and 84 children donated a quarter to wear mismatched clothes and to be added into a raffle to win one of the Build-A-Bears. Additionally, 20 teachers donated money to the cause, and the grand total raised ended up being $673.29.
Also, Eischen’s mother, Khristin Flinn, organized an effort to collect Build-A-Bear coupons from McDonald’s Happy Meals, and they were able to get a $140 discount through the coupons – which equated to 70 Build-A-Bears made by Eischen and his friends, to be donated. This year, St. Matthew’s has around 370 children who are signed up to receive gifts through the church and almost a quarter of them will receive one of Eischen’s Build-A-Bears.