Students cheer others with bears

SPRINGFIELD After two and a half years of chemotherapy, Springfield elementary school student Kayla Danzi knows what it's like to spend holidays in a hospital.

That's why Danzi, who is now cancer-free, started collecting teddy bears to cheer up other sick children at Christmas and year-round.

To help Danzi's effort, students at Springfield High School recently selected and stuffed 100 new bears at Build-a-Bear Workshop, and Danzi and her two siblings delivered them to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in time for Christmas. According to the Danzi website, the Danzi students have donated more than 600 bears and $870 in Build-a-Bear gift cards to the hospital.

Sarah Brazill, a spokeswoman for the Springfield School District, praised the multistep process that the high schoolers went through in order to deliver their donated bears. They held fund-raisers, including a restaurant and a dance marathon, then took the money to Build-a-Bear Workshop, created the teddy bears, and brought each new stuffed animal to the Danzi family.

The children who received the bears weren't the only ones to benefit from the charitable project. Some of the high school bear-makers were participants in SAILL - the school's program that teaches independent living skills for students with special needs - along with their volunteer buddies.

"One of the things that they're trying to do with SAILL is help to teach some cognitive reasoning and a sense of the process," Brazill said. "Because there were so many steps to this process, this was great for them."

- Julie Zauzmer