It’s almost that time of year again! Time for the splendor and joy of Martha’s Vineyard Teddy Bear Suite, celebrating its 7th year of creating holiday memories for so many people.
However, the Teddy Bear Suite is so much more than an event. It is one of the biggest fundraisers for the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club’s Healthy Happy Kids (H2K). Last year, this event raised $35,000 to help launch and fund H2K which provides free, substantial snack to kids in the After School Program, free lunch and snack during the Summer program and more.
Healthy Happy Kids serves hundreds of Island children each year, and the need is growing. Last year, the Island learned just how severe childhood hunger was here, and people and business did so much to help. However, we need to do even more.
It’s amazing what a mother can do for her children. Meet Stacey Smith, a young, dynamic mother, who grew up on the Island, and is too familiar with the Island Shuffle. If you don’t know, the Island shuffle is when families have to move repeatedly from house-to-house, with one form of housing in the Winter and another during the Summer.
It can be easy to find an affordable Winter rental, but come Summer, it’s almost impossible. Stacey found herself in that situation. Last year, after she had to leave her rental with her mom, and twin 6 1/2 year old daughters, Maddison and Anabelle, she found herself with no options.
Her only solution, a tiny camper in a friend’s backyard. Four people, one small camper, with limited room. Imagine a mini-fridge for meals for four. How does a mother prepare and make three meals a day for her children when this is your home?
Every meal was a challenge, and if you know little kids, they are always hungry. Can you imagine the joy Stacey felt when she went to register her little girls for camp at the Boys & Girls Club, and found out that snacks and lunch were provided, daily?
The relief was palpable. Lunches are always tough for kids, but the lack of space their family was working with made it even harder. Stacey could drop off her girls and go to work not ,worrying about the girls having enough to eat. Each day they had the chance to have good, healthy food throughout the day, and were big fans of the sandwiches and fruit, according to Stacey.
With the help of the Boys & Girls Club, Maddison and Anabelle were able to have a fun, dynamic Summer, while Stacey was working, and mom got to worry a lot less.
Flash forward a couple of months of super fun camp for the girls, and now, Stacey works at the Boys & Girls Club as its administrative assistant. She has a full-time job with benefits, has a rental home, for now. Come June, she is back to square one.
However, in the meantime, she is the happiest she has been in long time. With her new job, comes benefits which are so important. Her daughter, Maddison, has challenging health concerns, and has already had 14 surgeries, with many more in her future. She also gets to see her girls after school when they come to Boys & Girls Club for the After School Program.
Her girls come from the West Tisbury School happy and excited. They get to see their mom, and have a healthy snack to hold them over until their mom or dad take them home. Also, Stacey appreciates the level of inclusion the Boys & Girls Club offers. Maddison does not feel like her disabilities limit her from having fun. Instead, the staff works hard to make her and all the kids feel safe, and have the chance to have fun.
This is just one story from one family who has had their life bettered from Healthy Happy Kids and the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club.
There are so many more stories from families on the Island — ones that may not have such a bright spot in them, but by donating to the Martha’s Vineyard Teddy Bear Suite Fundraiser, you can help continue the fight against childhood hunger.
Healthy Happy Kids now costs more than $50,000 a year, and that number is growing. The Boys & Girls Club has had a 274% increase in enrollment, since last year. The need for affordable after school childcare is so great, and the need to prevent children from going hungry grows too.
With the Martha’s Vineyard Teddy Bear Suite, we goal this year is to raise as much money as possible, and continue to let kids focus on being kids, and not worry about where their next meal is coming from.
I also wanted to share with you, that this second year of Healthy Happy Kids has really led to some great successes at the Boys & Girls Club. There is less of separation of the “haves and have nots,” there have been less behavioral issues with children, and the Homework room has seen an increase in use. It’s amazing what food can do for children.
Another great result is the creation of the weekend meal program. With the help of Martha’s Vineyard Rotary Club, children have the opportunity to bring home a backpack with meals for the entire weekend. It’s a wonderful way to provide children with the chance to have food, not just during the week, but also all weekend long.
In addition, local farms and businesses help when they can. Sometimes Island Grown Schools or Morning Glory Farm has produce that they offer for children to be able to bring home.
Focusing on the prevention of childhood hunger has been a huge undertaking for the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club, but it has proven to be so helpful and life changing. Kids that are not hungry can just be kids, and feel a little freer.
The Martha’s Vineyard Teddy Bear Suite will be open in December at the Harbor View Hotel’s Captain’s Cottage #20. Get ready to see all your favorite teddy bears and meet new ones too.
December 1st – 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
December 2nd – 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
December 3rd – 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
December 8th – 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
December 9th – 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
December 10th – 10:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
December 15th – 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
December 16th – 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
December 17th – 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
You can learn more about The Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club on Facebook. For more information about the Martha’s Vineyard Teddy Bear Suite, the mvteddybearsuite.com website and online donation site will be available shortly. Don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Linked In, Google+, Pinterest and Youtube.