Maya Tells The Story Behind Two Sisters Forming A Nonprofit That Empowers All Kids

February 23rd, 2020 | Blog

As a child, my mom would take me and my older sister Layla to Build-A-Bear Workshop for our birthdays. Instead of crafting a stuffed animal for ourselves, though, we would create a furry friend to give to a child in need. 

Around Thanksgiving when I was six years old, my sister and I had friends over to participate in the event. Since it was just around Thanksgiving, it was the perfect time to give back on a larger scale. We ordered supplies from a vendor and 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. People sign up so that we have the materials ready and they come between 10:00am to 5:00pm. We include clothing, accessories, the animals, stuffing as well as cards and a gift certificate for the kids to fill out.  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 densely-populated schools in New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, Harlem, Bridgeport, and Detroit, and we 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 specific memory comes to mind, even after hosting these events in many public schools across the country. 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. I clearly remember when 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!” Before this event, these kids had never experienced the act of giving and the feeling of giving. But with a little encouragement and explaining of where these gifts were going, the kids including Jamal felt amazing and even wanted to create more gifts for others. They knew that they were helping someone else and making them feel happy, all while feeling so happy themselves! 

I have had the privilege of seeing the life-changing effects of our Stuffed With Love events in many communities. Going into so many different schools with different circumstances has opened my eyes to communities all around us and what one kid can do to brighten someone else’s day. 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.

New Orleans 2020

February 18th, 2020 | Past Events

Kipp Leadership Academy “Stuffed With Love”

What an experience it was for Maya, with the help of Tulane students, to work with this awesome middle school and empower 300 students who spent their day creating stuffed animals for other kids in their community.

Jose De Diego Middle School, Miami 2019

April 20th, 2019 | Past Events

SWL 2018 – Everyone Can Participate and Help Kids In Need

October 8th, 2018 | Upcoming Events

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

As we try our best to face obstacles and challenges with love as fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends and as neighbors -we now hope to share our love with children in our community who are in need during this coming holiday season.

Please help us provide children in need with a special “Stuffed With Love” animal to give comfort in times of need.

***Is your child on a SPORTS TEAM, or involved in an EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITY GROUP that is looking for a great bonding activity? Email hallie@kidzgiveback.org and we can help organize a “Stuffed With Love” event!

                                                              WAYS TO PARTICIPATE
CLICK BELOW– $25 donation to pick up “Stuffed With Love” kits from our home (23 Silver Brook Road, Westport ) for your child/children and their friends to create. The kit will include: animal skin, stuffing, wish star, clothing, accessories, gift card, adoption certificate, a SWL bracelet for your child to wear for participating, and a non-woven gift bag. The gift will take less than 30 minutes to create and will provide unlimited love to a child in need.
CLICK BELOW– $25 donation to provide the opportunity for a child in need to create their very own stuffed animal to love and hug unconditionally.
FORWARD this email to all of your friends so that their kids and their friends can participate.
We will provide these gifts to children at:
• Saint Christopher Ottile – in Sea Cliff
• Children’s hospital at Yale
• St. Barnabas in the Bronx
• Stonybrook Hospital – Children’s Oncology
• Saint Vincent Hospital

With love,
Hallie, Scott, Layla, and Maya Wofsy

CLICK HERE TO PARTICIPATE

Please contact Hallie Wofsy at hallie@kidzgiveback.org or 203-451-6295 with any questions.

Westport 2012 Event

April 19th, 2013 | Past Events

photophoto copy

Family’s Charity Draws Hundreds from Community

April 8th, 2013 | Press

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 shwofsy@optonline.net

 www.thehour.com
WESTPORT
By CHASE WRIGHT (Hour Staff Writer)

The Daily Westport

March 27th, 2013 | Press

SWL_WestportArticle

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.”

www.thedailywestport.com
by Vanessa Inzitari11/22/10
Photo credit: David Esposito

From Our Kids…

March 22nd, 2013 | Blog

Dear Friends and Family,

photo copy 2My 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

From the parents…

March 20th, 2013 | Blog

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.

Click Here, to  get involved with SWL.

With love,
Hallie, Scott, Layla and Maya Wofsy

Website Design by Chroma Sites