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Beanie Babies: to the troops, for the kids

Thanks to efforts of the staff members at the Ross Aragon Community Center, hundreds of Beanie Babies that have been residing in closets and bins throughout the Pagosa area have new and loving homes.

Thea Lanier learned about the Web site, www.anysoldier.com, through a friend. She was looking for a possible way to lend her support to our nation’s troops. What she found was the following statement on this Internet site:

“No kidding!” a really good way to get rid of those things (don’t buy new ones, collect them from your house and ask your friends!!) Send some in every package to ALL units as they are really easy for the Sailors to carry with them and give to the local kids who love them. These are better than small plastic toys which will break easily and are not as easy to carry in a pack. There is NO more effective ambassador for our country than a Sailor helping the local folks. This is done far more often than the press shows, and quite probably the most important thing a Sailor will ever do.”

This article was accompanied by a photo from CEO3 Edward Jimenez’s unit in Afghanistan. The photo shows a Marine handing a Beanie Baby to a child.

Thea mentioned this article to Michelle Jamison, and the two of them decided this might be a project the center could undertake, with the involvement of the community. They hoped they might collect enough Beanie Babies to send up to 10 of the United States Postal Service mailers to troops or units in foreign lands.

So, early in the holiday season the call to Beanie Baby collectors went out in the community center column in The SUN. And those Beanie Babies came marching out of closets, jumping from storage containers and sliding off shelves. Before the drive was over, these ladies had collected enough Babies to fill 32 mailing boxes!

Some people donated an entire collection. Others brought in ones their children had outgrown. Some had the tiny Beanie Babies that had been obtained through Happy Meal boxes in a fast food promotion in the late ’90s and early 2000. Many of these were still in their plastic wrappers.

Thea said, “You can tell many of these came from treasured collections, because they even had the little protective plastic covers on the tags.” (As early collectors know, these tags were sold independently of the babies in order to help keep the critters in mint condition.)

Whatever the story, Pagosans were thrilled to find a way to share with our troops.

There was an instant appeal to these creatures and an irresistible urge by many to collect them. Children loved the colorfulness, the cuddliness, and the ease of carrying these critters around. Adults found the clever tags, names, birthdates and descriptions irresistible ,as well. For whatever reasons the purchases were made, two local merchants and many customers thoroughly enjoyed the “Beanie Baby Frenzy” of the era. Perhaps some of you remember the wild frenzy that was created when new Beanies arrived for sale in Pagosa Springs — or wherever you were living at the time.

Now, the popularity begins anew. This goodwill gesture that was initially begun for the holidays is one that can continue throughout the year in far reaches of the world. While the community center staff has not made a decision about sponsoring this project for the 2010 holiday season, individuals may get involved with this project at any time. On the Web site, www.anysoldier.com, there is abundant information about what can be sent to our troops — for their own use, as well as for goodwill gestures in the areas where they are stationed.

Several of the troops who received the Beanie Baby boxes from Pagosa Springs have already written their appreciation for the donations. Here is a sampling of what has been received.

“Your package arrived. Thank you! We will give the beanie babies to some soldiers so they can distribute them while they visit children in our area. I appreciate your support. Thank you, Chaplain Rudy Stevens.” (Jalalabad, Afghanistan.)

“Thanks so much for sending the Beanie Babies — we hope to give them out to the local children. More so, thanks for showing your support for my platoon and what we are doing. We really appreciate your thoughts and prayers. Check us out at www.alwaysfirst.wordpress.com to get an idea of what my platoon is up to as we spend the next 11 months in Afghanistan. Please tell the community center how much we enjoy getting care packages and letters from proud Americans. You are all awesome! Sincerely, Lance Dietz.”

“Dear Thea, First I would like to express to you the deep gratitude held by everyone over here for people like you. In this incredibly austere environment, the support you provide makes a big difference to those on this side of the world. We currently occupy a small British base in Helmand Province. The weather has turned cold and rainy, which I feel is a fine reprieve from the summer heat. Everyone looks forward to returning to the States this summer. Thank you again for all the love and support. It is truly appreciated. 1 Lt. Nick Lloyd Helmand, AFG.”

For those not educated about Beanie Babies, these are not just ordinary stuffed animals. They are incredibly soft, small colorful creatures, artfully created, with unique names placed on their tags. Each also has a birthday (the date of issue) and a short description written on the red heart-shaped tag.

Perhaps the most well known and widely collected “babies” have been the bears. “Erin” is the St. Patrick’s bear, green with a shamrock emblem, born March 17, 1997. “Valentino, a white bear with a red heart, was, naturally, born on Feb. 14, 1994. Millennium, born Jan. 1, 1999, has a tag that reads, “A brand new century has come to call, health and happiness to one and all. Bring on the fireworks and the fun, let’s keep the party going ‘til 2001.” “The End.” a little black bear, was born at the turn of the century. Everyone thought this would also be the end of the collection, but “Ty2K” was born on Jan. 1, 2000, and the collecting craze continued into the 21st century. Dozens of other bears have been issued by the parent company: Ty.

Among the other creatures, “Hissy” is a coiled snake, “Lips” is a colorful fish, and “Pouch” is naturally a kangaroo, “Early” is a robin, “Strut” is a rooster, “Loosy” is a goose, “Pinky” is a flamingo, and “Stretch” is an ostrich. “Smoochy” is a frog, “Hiss” is a snake and, of course, “Hoot” is an owl and “Twigs” is a giraffe. Special creatures were produced and issued for all the appropriate holidays. There were turkeys, pumpkins and bunnies, as well as numerous bears for July 4 and Christmas. The 1999 Holiday Teddy looks like he should be the winter mascot for Pagosa Springs, since he is light blue, covered in snowflakes.

You get the idea.

It is heartwarming to know that an incidental search for an idea would uncover such a meaningful gesture that, although only about six to nine inches tall, can send such a comforting and supportive message to a child in a faraway land. Kudos to the community center ladies who got the ball rolling on this great humanitarian project. And thank you to all who were willing to part with some or all of your precious collection to support such an undertaking.