Bama Buddies provides stuffed animals for children

The SOURCE is bringing back a program to provide Tuscaloosa children with new stuffed animals.

According to an October SOURCE newsletter, the Bama Buddies program is an initiative to benefit the community and provide an opportunity for student organizations to participate in meaningful service.

“The project is a fun and easy way for student organizations to provide a service project for their members,” said Stephanie Ballard, publicity chair for the project. “We have seen quite a bit of interest from groups who didn't participate last year, which is very exciting for us. We've also had a lot of interest for [resident advisers]; housing was one area we tried to reach out to last year.”

Logistics Chair Fernanda Lima said the SOURCE recruited several different campus organizations.

“We draw a lot of help from Freshman Forum members, SOURCE team members and Honors College freshmen,” she said. “Many student organizations purchase Bama Buddies kits to assemble at their meetings, so that is another way to get involved.”

Bama Buddies offers an experience similar to that found at Build-a-Bear stores, Ballard said. Students pay $10 and pick one of eight stuffed animals to stuff and give a heart to. Instead of taking the stuffed animals home, however, they are donated to four charities around Tuscaloosa to give a child in need a better Christmas holiday. In addition, $3 of the $10 paid goes directly to the charities, she said.

“When student organizations and individual students order the kits, it comes with the animal, stuffing, heart and name tag,” Ballard said. “Students then get to stuff the bear themselves, insert the heart to bring it to life, and write a little note for the child it's going to.”

According to Ballard, the project is designed to benefit children who will not have the best holiday season, so charities that typically serve underprivileged children were selected.

Tuscaloosa’s One Place, Turning Point Domestic Abuse Services, the RISE School and the Stork’s Nest are the charities receiving buddies this year.

Last year the program built 728 buddies and raised $2,200, according to a Bama Buddies flyer provided by Richard Cockrum, the SOURCE director of organizational leadership.

“This year, we would like to complete at least 1,000,” Ballard said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to make that goal by the end of the month.”

The program spans the month of November, with ordering beginning in October and organizations receiving and stuffing their kits throughout this month.

“If a student organization purchases a kit, we place the order and it takes about seven days to arrive here at UA,” Lima said. “We then distribute the kits to the groups and they assemble them. They return the buddies to us and we deliver them to the charities during dead week.”

A second round of Bama Buddies delivered in the spring is also being considered, she added.

While the bulk of the buddies are built through student organizations, individual students will be able to contribute starting Nov. 8-17. Students may purchase a kit and stuff bears at the Build-a-Buddy station in the Ferguson Center from 11 a.m.– 2 p.m.

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