As a child, my mom would take my sister, Maya, and me to Build-A-Bear Workshop for our birthdays. But instead of purchasing a gift for ourselves, we would create a stuffed animal to give to a child in need with the organization Kids in Crisis. For my eighth birthday, I asked my parents if we could bring all of my friends to participate in the event rather than having a traditional birthday party. Since my birthday is around Thanksgiving, it was the perfect time to give back on this larger scale. We invited about 30 of my friends and family to participate in the inaugural event, which we now host almost every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving. At our most recent event, we had 400 kids create stuffed animal gifts for those in need.
Over the years, we realized how great it felt to give back and how important it is to feel empowered to contribute to our community. But we know that many people do not have this opportunity. So, in 2010, our family made a New Year’s resolution to form a non-profit organization, Kidz Give Back, to host our Stuffed With Love events and help kids across the country feel the joy of giving back. Through the generosity of a grant, we have been able to take our events to inner-city schools in Atlanta, Harlem, Bridgeport, and Detroit, and hope to continue expanding into new communities. We provide all materials necessary for kids to create stuffed gifts, at no cost to the schools or students, and allow participants to choose the charities that will receive their creations.
In 2016, Kidz Give Back visited five schools in Harlem, New York, reaching a total of 500 students. One child, Jamal, was a passive participant, showing little emotion or expression for the first half of the event. I decided to keep an eye on him, hoping that his mood would change. Soon, the students had completed stuffing their gifts and dressing the animals with the t-shirts, jeans, and sunglasses provided in the toy-building kits. We collected all of the gifts that were now ready for distribution, and it was time for the teachers to bring their students back to class. At this point, I looked back to where Jamal had been sitting and noticed that, as his class was getting up, he remained seated. Jamal wanted to help us clean up and asked if there was any other way that he could help. He wanted to do more; he wanted to continue to be the active participant he had transformed into during that last half-hour.
At every event, we provide students with a survey to provide feedback on their experience. When I returned home from Harlem, Jamal’s survey quickly came to my attention. When asked, “Did you enjoy the event?” Jamal responded, “This was the BEST day of my life! I have never given to charity before and I am so happy and feel so good about helping someone else! Please come back so I can help more kids feel happy.” Another student said, “I want to do it again soon!” Just like Jamal, one opportunity to help another child was not enough for most of the students. Once the students had experienced the feeling of helping others, they felt inspired to help more and make an even greater difference in their community.
I have had the privilege of seeing the life-changing effects of our Stuffed With Love events. Being empowered to give back is an invaluable experience for children, and we aim to provide this opportunity to as many as possible. We hope you will join our Stuffed With Love Family to help us reach our goal of hosting at least one school event in each of the 50 states. For information on how to support our events, please visit the “How to Participate” section of our main menu.
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