The Wofsy home in Westport was stuffed with love Friday as community members packed inside the Silverbrook Road residence to build stuffed animals for children in need.
The 4th annual “Stuffed with Love” open house charity drew 140 families and netted about 350 stuffed animals to benefit the Westport-based nonprofit Al’s Angels, according to Hallie Wofsy, who runs the event with her husband, Scott; and daughters Layla and Maya.
“It’s just amazing,” Hallie Wofsy said. “The first year we did this, we had about 50 families participate. It just keeps growing and growing.”
Each year on the Friday following Thanksgiving, the Wofsy family invites the community into their home to stuff animals, dress them in outfits, and complete the ensemble with pins, buttons and stickers. The finished product is then named, bagged and shipped to Al’s Angels, which distributes the stuffed animals to needy children throughout the region.
While Daniel Westphal, 9, put the finishing touches on a hockey stick-toting alligator, his sister Jennifer, 6, pieced together a tan bear in a denim skirt and jacket.
“It’s pretty incredible how many people get involved,” their mother, Sue Westphal, said.
The event is beneficial, she said, because it teaches children about the value of giving and supports their creative minds.
“That’s what this is all about,” she said, “giving back.”
“Stuffed with Love” has been held every year since 2007 on the Friday following Thanksgiving, when Layla Wofsy celebrates her birthday.
Rather than hold a big party for their eldest daughter, who turned 10 on Friday, the Wofsy family decided four years ago to invite others into their home and create gifts for the less fortunate.
And before that, Scott and Hallie Wofsy were taking their daughters to Build-A-Bear workshop to create stuffed animals for others.
Layla said she doesn’t mind replacing her birthday party with a charitable toy drive for children in need.
“It’s more important to give than to get,” she said.
Those interested in donating to the event can mail a check to Hallie Wofsy at 23 Silverbrook Road in Westport. Each check goes toward the purchase of the gifts, which are used to assemble the stuffed animals. To participate in future events, e-mail Hallie Wofsy at firstname.lastname@example.org
By CHASE WRIGHT (Hour Staff Writer)
Layla Wofsy turns 10 on Friday. But instead of planning a big birthday bash, she and her family are preparing to host their annual open-house charity event, “Stuffed With Love.”
For the event, which has been held the Friday after Thanksgiving since 2007, the Wofsy home is transformed into a stuffed animal workshop. Hundreds of family and friends join them in making stuffed animals for children in need. “Stuffed With Love” was Layla’s idea.
“When I was 6, I stopped having big birthday parties and decided to do this,” said Layla, a fourth-grader at Coleytown Elementary.
Though it may be uncommon for a child to make such a decision, charity has been a part of Layla’s life from a young age. Every year since her second birthday, Layla has gone to Build-A-Bear and made a stuffed animal for a child in need, said Hallie Wofsy, her mom.
But four years ago, Layla asked if they could have a stuffed-animal-making party for charity instead of a birthday party, Hallie said. And that’s how “Stuffed With Love” was born.
“I always liked giving,” Layla said. “It makes me feel good: I feel helpful.”
In the first year, about 50 families participated, said Hallie, a Coleytown Elementary PTA. This year, about 140 families will help create nearly 350 stuffed animals.
All of the animals, which are dressed, given a birth certificate and packed in a decorated gift bag complete with a personalized card, are given to the Westport nonprofit Al’s Angels for distribution to needy children.
Layla said she wouldn’t trade “Stuffed With Love” for a traditional birthday party.
“They don’t get stuffed animals and they don’t have all the things I do,” Layla said of needy children. “I’m making them happy.”
by Vanessa Inzitari11/22/10
Photo credit: David Esposito
Dear Friends and Family,
My name is Layla and I am 13 years old. My sister’s name is Maya, and she is 10. My parents have always told us how important it is to give back and now we are doing something about it. We have SWL parties! Maya and I both love SWL parties. I love that kids and parents come together to make other kids feel happy. That makes me feel great. Maya has done SWL since she was 5 and she loves it too. Like me, she also feels really good when she is helping other kids.
SWL is usually on or around my birthday, which is in November. Instead of a birthday party, my family hosts SWL. SWL is even better than a birthday party because tons of people come to a “party” and make stuffed animals. It is really fun to stuff, dress and wrap the animals. I also love being with my friends and other kids in my town as we do something special together. It shows that kids are important and can change the lives of other kids who need our help. We all have one goal (to get the animals to the kids who need them) and I love that.
Since my birthday is in November, our SWL party is always right after Thanksgiving. That is pretty neat since Maya and I are thankful for what we have and we like doing something about this feeling.
For us, SWL is not only about helping kids in need. It is also to show our friends the importance of helping others. When SWL had its first party there were 50 people. This past year there were over 350 people at our house! Everyone has fun at SWL and they are happy when they are giving back. That is what this is all about.
We hope you will join our SWL family and have a party of your own. We want to reach our goal — to host at least one SWL party in each of the 50 states. We will help you get organized and make it the best party you ever had since Maya and I pretty much run the event at our home now. We really hope you take the chance and host a SWL event- your kids will learn so much and be so thankful. Plus, the more SWL parties there are around the United States, the more kids get to feel great – it can’t get better than that!
Thanks for helping and joining our SWL family,
Layla & Maya Wofsy
Dear prospective members of our “Stuffed With Love” (SWL) family,
My husband Scott and I believe that charity is very important and we continually discuss with our two daughters the importance of giving back to one’s community so, it was natural that we decided to begin “Stuffed With Love” or SWL, a charity event to celebrate our daughter Layla’s 7th birthday. Our kids were thrilled and wanted to be “doers”, so, with the help of friends and family, provided an environment where children would create stuffed animals that would be donated to charities where children in need could appreciate them.
As December 31, 2010 fell upon us, it became clear what our family’s New Year’s resolution should be: to enable children across the United States the opportunity to give back to their communities as well. This is the beginning of Kidz Give Back Foundation and “Stuffed With Love” (SWL) is an integral part of the foundation. We hope that you will become involved in some manner that will enable you and/or the children in your lives to give back by participating and becoming giving members of your community by supporting SWL. You may do so by hosting a SWL event, participating in a SWL event in your community, or by donating to Kidz Give Back Foundation. Our goal is to build accountable young adults who understand the importance of giving back. SWL will provide children and young adults this opportunity.
In 2014 we received a grant from the Fanny and Svante Kilstrom Foundation to enable 400 Bridgeport, CT students who are usually only the recipients of charity, the ability to make changes in their community and feel empowered. In 2015, we were fortunate again to receive this grant and provided this same opportunity to 500 inner city students in Harlem, New York. The smiles on these children’s faces was priceless and we strive to have more opportunities like these across the United States. Everyone can help us make this dream a reality by donating to our organization.
We look forward to working with you to brighten the lives of both healthy and needy children across the country by allowing children of all ages the opportunity to make a difference in this world and help children in need.
Hallie, Scott, Layla and Maya Wofsy