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Wiesbaden preschooler Mark Jones bids his bear adieu Wednesday as part of a stuffed animal drive for needy Afghan and Iraqi children. The effort, which concludes Monday, already has led to at least 78 donated furry friends.
Wiesbaden preschooler Mark Jones bids his bear adieu Wednesday as part of a stuffed animal drive for needy Afghan and Iraqi children. The effort, which concludes Monday, already has led to at least 78 donated furry friends. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)
Wiesbaden preschooler Mark Jones bids his bear adieu Wednesday as part of a stuffed animal drive for needy Afghan and Iraqi children. The effort, which concludes Monday, already has led to at least 78 donated furry friends.
Wiesbaden preschooler Mark Jones bids his bear adieu Wednesday as part of a stuffed animal drive for needy Afghan and Iraqi children. The effort, which concludes Monday, already has led to at least 78 donated furry friends. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)
Among the children getting their last hugs in were Caitlin Arnold, foreground, Miles Jones and Brianna Engi, rear.
Among the children getting their last hugs in were Caitlin Arnold, foreground, Miles Jones and Brianna Engi, rear. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)

WIESBADEN, Germany — Winnie the Pooh is heading downrange. An owl, a rabbit and a bunch of bears are going, too.

If the deployment goes off without a hitch, scores of Afghan and Iraqi kids will soon have a new buddy to hug and hold, courtesy of the children and staff at the Hainerberg II child development center.

“It’s hard,” 4-year-old Mark Jones said Wednesday shortly after parting with a bear he donated to the stuffed animal drive. “I told him goodbye.”

So far, Wiesbaden children have given away at least 78 stuffed animals, ranging from Mark’s bear to Brianna Engi’s owl to somebody’s red Elmo.

The collection, which concludes Monday, is part of a monthlong effort to help pre-schoolers develop sharing and caring skills. Last month, the children participated in a food drive.

The beneficiaries of this latest project will be needy children in faraway lands, children with few possessions and many knocks against them.

Helping to bridge the distance are several members of the 159th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) in Wiesbaden. The unit will escort the toys downrange to make sure the lovable, furry guys land in the arms of deserving Afghan and Iraqi children.

“When they sleep at night, they’ll have something to cuddle with,” said Mia Degirmenci, one of the organizers. “It will give them back a bit of the childhood they have lost.”

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