Everyone wants to do something to help, whether it’s through school supplies, blankets or snowflakes. For Stacie Rydingsward, owner of Holistic Garden in Unionville, the answer was teddy bears.
Rydingsward offered her business, along with her mother, Sandra Schoen, who runs McGillicuddy’s next door, as a collection point for Patch’s Operation Snuggle Newtown. The project collected teddy bears which will be delivered to Newtown children at a Christmas party on Saturday and given to Connecticut State Troopers, who will hand them out at trauma scenes.
The Unionville businesses collected 60 bears, overwhelming Rydingsward with the generosity of the community.
“The people who came on Saturday – Liz and Jason Langevin were my first – and it was so emotional. But then when the children started coming in, I bawled my eyes out,” she said.
Children came in offering not only new stuffed animals but also their own beloved bears to help comfort the children of Newtown.
Seeing their compassion was comforting, she said.
“It made it easier. I thought ‘Okay, this is our future. All these children coming in and helping other children…’ and I thought this horrible tragedy is going to make us stronger.”
Rydingsward’s daughter Morgan, home on break from college, volunteered to stay at the Holistic Garden to collect bears while she went to her second job.
And a potluck supper at McGillicuddy’s followed by caroling through the center yieled more bear donations and a little more comfort.
Being able to give back helped a little, too.
“It was healing – every teddy bear I got,” she said. “I believe that each person that dropped something off it helped them feel better because what can we do to heal this poor community? Really there’s nothing but to try and give them support and do something."
Now, Rydingsward is hopeful.
“I said I want to keep my judgment out of it and just stay focused on looking at all the good people are doing,” she said. “I have a 12 year-old-son. He was a little bit nervous and I told him ‘They’re going to make sure it never happens again. America is going to make it better and make sure other kids are safe.”