Local nonprofit sends therapeutic teddy bears to Texas school shooting survivors

Dozens of volunteers turned out Saturday morning to pack therapeutic teddy bears made by a local nonprofit to help somehow ease the grief of Tuesday’s mass shooting in Texas.

A total of more than 700 Comfort Cubs will end up in the town of Uvalde – enough for every student at Robb Elementary School, as well as family members of deceased or injured children and teachers.

“We’re sending the cubs because we’re trying to heal broken hearts,” said Marcella Johnson, who founded The Comfort Cub after coping with the death of a newborn baby 23 years ago.

The association has already sent seven boxes containing 42 Comfort Cubs which will be handed over personally to the families of the victims.

After an official from the mayor of Uvalde’s office informed Johnson of the depth of the trauma suffered by children at the school, Johnson decided to donate another 660, including some extras in case some teachers had any. also need.

“It’s not just a stuffed animal, it’s a therapeutic teddy bear,” Johnson said. “When you put pressure on your body and hold something close to you, your brain releases dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which causes a physiological change in your body. This slows your heart rate , your breathing, and gives you an overall sense of calm.

Marcella Johnson, founder of The Comfort Cub, speaks to the group of volunteers packing teddy bears at her home Saturday in Encinitas.

(Haley Nelson/For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Filled with plastic pellets, each Comfort Cub weighs approximately 4 pounds. That’s enough weight, according to the organization, to allow for “deep tactile pressure” that helps relieve anxiety and stress.

To facilitate a quick shipment to Texas, Johnson took to social media to ask for volunteers to pack the Comfort Cubs. She was pleasantly surprised to see about 55 people show up in her family’s Encinitas driveway on Saturday morning.

“I just think it will bring a lot of comfort and love to these kids,” said 14-year-old James Jansen. Calavera Hills Middle School student Olivia Clark agreed. “A lot of people have lost the ones they were really close to,” she said, “and we just have to make sure they feel better.” Both are members of the Carlsbad-based nonprofit Kids For Peace.

A Comfort Cub is inflated and prepared for shipment to a student at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas

A weighted therapy teddy bear is inflated and prepared to be shipped Saturday to a student at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, at the Encinitas home of The Comfort Cub founder Marcella Johnson.

(Haley Nelson/For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

A few yards away, La Mesa resident Sarah Word wrote a personal note on one of the cards attached to the teddy bears. Word and a number of volunteers survived the 2017 Las Vegas music festival shooting that left 60 dead and 411 injured.

“At first I had nightmares every night, and the bear weight really helped calm me down,” Word said. “If I had panic attacks or felt like I had no one to help me or hug me, I would just use my bear. It helped tremendously.

“It’s been tough for all of the survivors this week,” said Erin Powell of Rancho Santa Fe, who also survived the attack. “It’s part of our healing, to help in some way.”

Shannon Moffett’s feet were bloodied after running over broken glass in the Las Vegas shooting. “When I was healing a few months later I found an old teddy bear and at night when you’re a bit lonely and holding something, it really helped me,” said the creator of Encinitas. “And then finding out that they’re sending all of this to the kids, to hold them and comfort them at night, it’s just so huge.”

Typically, it would cost nearly $40,000 to ship 110 boxes of Comfort Cubs by air freight, Johnson said, but United Airlines agreed to waive the fee.

Tana Hutchinson packs and labels boxes of weighted therapy bears

Tana Hutchinson of Escondido packs and labels boxes of weighted therapy bears to send to students at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

(Haley Nelson/For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

“I think everyone is just looking to help and contribute,” said Bonnie Leth, United Airlines sales manager and Santee resident. “There are so many bad things going on, and it just shows you that there are a lot of good people out there.”

Johnson will accompany the cargo when it arrives Tuesday at San Antonio Airport, located about 80 miles from Uvalde. From there, Johnson said she and other volunteers will help transport the Comfort Cubs and ensure they are delivered to children, teachers and families.

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