A basement full of toys sounds like every kid’s dream. That's a reality for 11-year-old Raleigh from Skyesville who has a basement full of stuffed animals. Except she isn’t keeping a single toy. She’s giving all of them away for a good cause.
Raleigh created Comforting Cuddles where she collects stuffed animals and gives them to emergency departments like police departments and fire departments to put in their vehicles to give to kids during scary or traumatic situations.
"They comfort me a lot,” said Raleigh. “It feels really good to know that stuffed animals are going to comfort kids that maybe lost some of theirs or are really scared."
Raleigh took her idea and turned it into a Facebook page. From there, the donations starting pouring in. She received stuffed animals from people in Carroll County as well as surrounding counties. She’s even received donations from as far as the Eastern Shore.
"It was pretty overwhelming to be honest,” said Raleigh’s mother, Erin Upton. “We expected definitely our friends and family and people she knows at school to support it, but once Facebook kind of took off and people got a hold of this, it really just became such a big thing.”
The overwhelming support was something Raleigh and her family didn’t see coming.
"It feels really good to know that this has come this far because I never anticipated that it would come this far,” said Raleigh. “I basically just thought that we were going to get a bucket full of stuffed animals."
Raleigh received a lot more than just a bucket. With her basement filled with stuffed animals, Raleigh has teamed up with emergency departments all over Central Maryland like the Sykesville Police Department, who were excited to get involved.
"What she's doing is pretty fantastic,” said Sgt. Shawn Kilgore with the Sykesville Police Department. “Be it an accident, be it an assault or any time we’re dealing with a parent, kids are scared.”
Sgt. Kilgore knows first-hand how a stuffed animal can comfort a kid during a difficult situation.
"I have a mother telling me I was able to touch their kids from giving them a stuffed animal from something that happened ten years ago,” said Sgt. Kilgore. “They still have them and they remember it."
"It’s been great to see her sort of be fearless with this and take it to the next level,” said Upton. “She didn't stop with just an idea. She actually did the work to make it happen.”
Comforting Cuddles received so much support that Raleigh has stopped accepting donations for the time being. But she is hoping this won't be a one time deal and she can continue helping others. She is now looking for more departments to get involved and help more kids in the area.