GREENWICH TOWNSHIP — In just two weeks’ time, more than 3,600 bears and other stuffed animals were collected from places near and far in honor and remembrance of former Greenwich Elementary student Conner Synder, 8, and his sister Brinley, 4, of Albany Township.
"It’s heartwarming to see the response of these young students and the school staff who inspired an entire community to rally behind this special cause," said Brian Downs in a statement on behalf of Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital. "And hopefully providing a bright moment for children in the hospital by receiving one of these stuffed animals will continue to help with the healing process following this awful tragedy."
Greenwich Elementary students and staff gathered in the gym to conclude the bear collection on Friday morning, Dec. 20.
With the help of the PA State Police, the Kutztown Fire and Rescue, and the Kempton Fire and Rescue Departments, thousands of the bears were sent on their way with a police escort to Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital to be with children who need them.
"The staff at Greenwich Elementary realizes that sometimes things happen in life where there are no words to adequately express all that we are feeling. It is in times like these that teddy bears can provide comfort and do what others may be unable to do. The students and staff at Greenwich Elementary School, along with their community, recently experienced such a time," said Greenwich Elementary Principal Erin J. Anderson and Kutztown Area School District Superintendent Christian Temchatin in a statement to media.
Greenwich Elementary 5th grade teacher Melissa Blatt organized the bear drive.
“When Conner and Brinley Snyder died unexpectedly and tragically, everyone wanted to do something to help the community heal and to memorialize these two very special children," said Blatt in the released statement. "The idea was born to host a teddy bear collection in honor of Conner and Brinley and then donate the bears to local first responders, hospitals, and agencies who aid children."
Staff, police, fire fighters and emergency response personnel formed a chain to load the more than 3,600 bears into police cruisers, ambulances and fire trucks. One rather large bear even got a seat in front with a State Police trooper.
With sirens blasting, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles were sent on their way with students and staff waving and shouting along side the Kutztown Cougar mascot.
"The staff at Greenwich Elementary is overwhelmed and humbled by the positive response to the bear drive," Temchatin and Anderson said in the statement. "We are eternally grateful to all those who donated and helped distribute the bears to those children in need of comfort. We are hopeful the bears are able to bring joy and comfort to others the way Conner and Brinley brought joy and comfort to all they knew."