Sawmill Intermediate School

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Students at Mandracchia Sawmill Intermediate School in Commack collected 146 teddy bears to donate to Hugs Across America. The not-for-profit charity was founded by Sue Lucarelli, who was a teacher in a Manhasset school when the towers went down on September 11, 2001.  She recalled, “The school went into lock-down as a precaution, and one of my anxious students said to me, “I need a hug!”” She gladly complied, and thought to give the youngster one of the class teddy bears as an added comforter. And as simply as that, the concept of Hugs Across America was born. The organization now has 195 chapters nationwide and has distributed more than 460,000 teddy bears to children who might “need a hug” to cope with events in their lives. The bears are distributed to children of military parents who have been deployed, children who are involved in family court struggles, natural disasters, or are grieving. Many fire engines and police cars carry a spare bear or two to give to youngsters at emergency scenes. Each bear that is given out has an attached tag that indicates the giver’s name and the message, “I care.” Sawmill fifth grade student council representative Olivia Dubi initiated the idea of collecting the teddy bears for children. A bit of research by student council advisor Phyllis Solomon led her to Hugs Across America. Its mission statement echoes the feelings of the Sawmill students, “In this often troubled and troubling world, it is our mission to bring comfort to children in crisis through the hugs of teddy bears and messages of loving care.”        Article by:      Brenda Lentsch
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