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South Fulton teen’s Christmas wish: A ‘bear’able holiday at Le Bonheur

South Fulton teen’s Christmas wish: A ‘bear’able holiday at Le Bonheur

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
Annalise Bing is already excited about what she got for Christmas.
The 13-year-old South Fulton girl delivered 60 stuffed animals to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis on Sunday afternoon.
It was exactly what she wanted this year.
When Annalise’s parents, Chuck and Tracie Bing, asked what she wanted for Christmas, she couldn’t think of anything for herself.
“I just wanted to give to other people,” said Annalise, a seventh-grader at South Fulton Middle School.
She ultimately decided she wanted to make stuffed bears for the children hospitalized at Le Bonheur.
She had received her first Build-A-Bear stuffed animal when she was briefly hospitalized at Le Bonheur for a medical problem several years ago. Her older sister, now 19, also spent time at Le Bonheur over the years.
Mrs. Bing said Annalise had been talking about the idea of giving teddy bears to the children at Le Bonheur for quite some time and it really made an impression on her when she received a stuffed animal during her stay as a small child.
She said she kept asking Annalise what she wanted for Christmas, but there was nothing her daughter wanted.
“She finally said, ‘There’s nothing I want, there’s nothing I need, so can I go to Build-A-Bear and make bears and take them to Le Bonheur? That money you would spend on my present I want to spend to make bears,’” Mrs. Bing recalled.
“She decided she wanted to do that and give back, because that kind of made an impression on her (when she was younger) and that was really neat. She wanted to be able to give something to the kids who are there for Christmas who can’t go home.”
Even though Annalise loves Build-A-Bear, the location of the nearest store made it somewhat difficult for local family and friends to participate in stuffing an animal for the children at Le Bonheur. Instead, the Bings made a connection with Braylee’s Cottage and Zoo in downtown Union City, where customers may also lovingly stuff their own animals.
Mrs. Bing said Braylee’s Cottage owners Rob and Susie Fleenor were “ecstatic” to help her daughter’s cause, even though they had never met until a few days ago.
“They were as excited as Annalise,” she said.
The initial plan was to allow Annalise to stuff three or four bears to take to the children’s hospital. But the project grew after it was posted on the Braylee’s Cottage Facebook page and the community was invited to get involved by either placing online orders for animals or by visiting the store to purchase them in person at a discounted price over a three-day period.
“What started out as two to five bears just blossomed,” Mrs. Bing said.
The store’s owners hosted a party Friday afternoon for Annalise and anyone else who wished to stuff their own animals for Le Bonheur. They were treated to cupcakes and hot chocolate and it was a festive atmosphere for the thoughtful teen, her younger sister and several of their friends.
Still other participants visited the Union City store Saturday to stuff animals to be delivered to the Memphis hospital on Sunday, while some of Annalise’s family members from out of state even ordered bears online for the special delivery.
Annalise and her family delivered 60 animals — ranging from traditional bears to the more exotic stuffed giraffes and kangaroos — to Le Bonheur’s staff while a special holiday event was under way Sunday afternoon. Santa Claus and real reindeer were even on hand.
Mrs. Bing said the support from the community was overwhelming and humbling — especially considering Annalise came up with the Le Bonheur idea only about a week ago and participants had about three days to get on board.
“Everyone has been very nice and very gracious and very helpful,” Mrs. Bing said, adding one woman gave her money to help pay for gas to Memphis rather than a stuffed animal.
Annalise said she would like to make the project an annual event to help the children at Le Bonheur.
“Hopefully, this will be an every year thing,” her mother added.
Annalise simply said it’s a good feeling to help someone else and she encourages others to do the same.
“It would help a lot because kids at Le Bonheur can’t be home for Christmas. It would really help them a lot,” she said.
Mrs. Bing said her daughter is a special young lady and she is very proud of her efforts.
“She is very sweet and always very thoughtful, but most kids — Christmas is a big thing, they can’t wait to get those big Christmas presents,” Mrs. Bing said. “And she said ‘For my big thing, that’s what I want to do is spend the money for bears for the kids at Le Bonheur.’”

Published in The Messenger 12.19.12

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