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LINWOOD, N.J. — Grief shrouded the tree-lined neighborhoods around Mainland Regional High School on Sunday, a day after four high school football players were killed and four were injured when their SUV crashed on Garden State Parkway on their way to have brunch with some teammates.
Students, parents, community members, and football team players donned in game jerseys turned out to mourn their loss at an evening vigil in misty weather. Some of the crash survivors were among the more than 3,000 who attended the vigil at the school stadium.
Photos of the four teens killed in the crash were placed at the center of the football field, drawing the attention of the attendees while speakers discussed the teens' accomplishments on and off the field. Many in the crowd cried and hugged throughout the vigil.
Counselors from the High School have requested 200 teddies to help in the process of comforting and healing at this time of grief.
By the time the numbers have been crunched, experts wouldn't be surprised if the ferocity of the Aug. 28 deluge that led to historic losses and catastrophic damage across communities near streams and rivers stretching from Cape May in New Jersey to Vermont, eclipsed a so-called 100-year flood.
On Long Island: Most of the damage was to homes struck by falling trees, flooding or subject to days of power loss. Hugs Across America responded by providing 150 teddies to local shelters such as Manhasset HS and Schreiber HS in Port Washington.
In Vermont: What may be the worst flooding since 1927 turned communities into islands, as high, fast-moving waters swamped roads and shredded some of the state's bridges. In some areas, homes knocked off their foundations by Hurricane Irene's wrath floated in lakes and rivers. Hugs sent 200 teddies to the American Red Cross in Rutland, which then distributed them to local FEMA or Red Cross units throughout the most devastated areas.
In upstate NY: In Margaretville and Prattville the devastation of hurricane Irene was just overwhelming! It is still unknown whether or not all of the buildings on either Main Street will stay standing. Many local stores, restaurants, and homes were completely destroyed. The National Guard continues to look for missing persons. Hugs has sent 200+ teddies to churches and fire departments that are responding to local needs. The United Methodist Church of Margaretville and the Prattsville Reformed Church have been particularly helpful in distributing teddies from family to family as they try to answer the frustration, fear and grief of the children traumatized by Irene’s destruction.
HAMBURG, Iowa (AP) -- Water that has been pouring through a breached Missouri River levee finally reached a makeshift barrier that is a small Iowa town's only hope of avoiding major flooding, authorities said Thursday.
A personal story helps us understand what that means: "The reason I am contacting you today is recently our area has been affected by the worst flooding since 1952 and some say ever. I myself have been forced to move from my home in Hamburg, Iowa to the nearby town of Nebraska City Nebraska where I work to save a 2 hr trip twice a day which I cant afford to make. My 5 yr old daughter, however, is back in Hamburg, with my mom and dad, as there are no openings with any of the daycare facilities in Nebraska City. My neighbors here at the campground, where I am residing, have a daughter involved with the chapter from around the Chicago area. They told their daughter about my situation with my daughter and myself and how I went from seeing her every night to only being able to see her every two weeks. You see this special woman brought me a Hugs Across America bear back with her on a visit to her mom and dad over the last holiday. This bear and someone doing something like that for someone they have never met really proved to me that even the smallest thing like a teddy bear can change some ones life. You see this bear now means the world to my little girl and every time she holds it she smiles and says this is my special bear, it helps me think of daddy. This little bear means the world to the both of us and I want to thank you for starting such a wonderful organization.
There are roughly 70 families forced out of their homes just in my county alone and many more in the neighboring counties just a short drive away. I would love to see the same smile that I saw on my daughter’s face that day she received a Hugs teddy bear, on the faces of all the little children of the families that are having to adjust to a new way of life after having lost so much."
Needless to say, 100 Hugs teddies are on their way to Hamburg, Iowa and the 70 families in need of special hugs. Thank you, for sharing your story!
From Newsday.com: Saturday June 11, 2011 5:07 PM By T.C. McCarthy
Photo credit: Frank Posillico
Manhasset’s Sue Lucarelli was teaching her fourth grade class at The Churchill School in lower Manhattan, four miles north of Ground Zero, on the day of the 9/11 terror attacks. Her primary focus was consoling her distraught students, and she turned to the only tools she had -- three teddy bears. “One little boy said, ‘All I know is, I need a hug,’ ” she remembered. Lucarelli happened to keep the bears in her classroom, so she used them to make sure everybody got a hug.
“I told the kids that if they were able to share on that day I’d make sure they all got bears.”
And they did.
Lucarelli, with the help of Community Reformed Church in Manhasset, ended up providing each of her students and more than 58,000 New York City children with teddy bears in the weeks following the terror attacks. She then started Hugs Across America later in 2001 to brighten up the days of other distressed children across the United States. On Saturday, Lucarelli was at the organization’s annual Teddy Bear Picnic at the church to raise money for Hugs.
The program now has 200 chapters across 36 states -- a Milwaukee chapter just sent 300 teddies to Joplin, Mo., to console young victims of the tornado that destroyed their town three weeks ago. The Manhasset chapter sent 800 bears to the New York City Red Cross to go to Japan shortly after the March tsunami. The total of bears sent to children in crisis since 9/11 now tops 750,000.
The program also places bears on fire trucks and in police cars so that emergency responders will have them to give to children at traumatic times. John Runge, the administrative officer with the Plandome Fire Department, has seen firsthand the good it can do.
Last summer the Plandome Fire Department responded to a tree falling on a house, just over a little girl’s room.
“Our lieutenant, Rob Saville, came to the conclusion that she needed a hug,” he said. “He got a teddy bear, gave it to her, [and] she was brightened up with a big smile across her face.”
The teddy bears don’t just make the recipients feel good. Lucarelli remembered in the weeks following 9/11, one of her students was helping her distribute the bears she had gathered for New York City’s children. She beamed as she recalled him keeping his bear tucked under his arm as he gave out bears to others.
“The most important thing to him was holding his bear and handing bears to other kids,” she said. “It’s really a wonderful thing.”
Our annual teddy bear picnic was a raving success, with the kids having fun bouncing in the castle, climbing all over the fire truck, dancing, making crafts projects, stuffing teddy bears and eating, eating, eating! The parents had fun too ... just watching their joyful children. In addition, Hugs made enough money to provide another 1000 bears to children in crisis. A great day, indeed!