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    Teens Create Hope Out of Scraps and Stuffing

    The Oak Lawn teens talk in excited bursts of language that well up like sudden summer storms, typical of 15-year-olds. When you see one, there is a 99-percent chance that you will find the other. Pals since preschool, Sarah and Bridget frequented the same birthday parties and school activities at St. Linus School.

    “We just said hi,” Sarah recalled of their first meeting as 3-year-olds.

    “I remember playing with the little train set,” Bridget said, both girls laughing so hard they can barely get the words out. “We played blocks and trucks. We played with food.”

    It wasn’t until the middle grades when they became best friends and formed their philanthropic enterprise—Stuffed Love—an organization that distributes handsewn stuffed animals, pillows and other cuddly shapes to those living on society’s fringes.

    “I noticed by doing other volunteer work for school that people just needed stuff, both monetary and foodwise,” Sarah said. “I kept wondering ‘what can two eighth-grade girls do?’”
    A Loving, Caring Message

    The idea for Stuffed Love was born at a random sleepover. Both girls liked to sew.

    “I was looking for something involving stuffed animals,” Sarah said. “I also wanted to get the message out of love and caring.”

    Sarah said she knew the name of their enterprise would be “stuffed something.”

    “We thought about it during class and Bridget said ‘Stuffed Love’ and I was like, ‘yeah.’”

    For their first project—Dec. 23, 2010—the girls stitched a boxful of cats, bears and starfish that they distributed to seniors at a nearby nursing home. The experience opened their eighth-grade eyes.

    “It was just so surprising to see how few had presents or family. They were so happy to get our stuff they were crying,” Sarah said. “I wanted to do it again.”

    “It was very touching,” Bridget added. “My heart grew just like the Grinch’s heart did.”

    From there, Stuffed Love snowballed. They made patriotic pillows for veterans at an outpatient treatment center, and geographic shapes for developmentally disabled adults.

    “Everyone still holds on to their cherished Stuffed Love creations,” Kristen Bonk said, spokeswoman for Park Lawn, an organization that provides social, vocational and residential services for developmentally disabled adults. “Our staff has seen the kindness and creativity of Sarah and Bridget, and all agree that they are a true inspiration.”

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