Caroline Cares, Helping Kids One Stuffed Animal at a Time

"It really is truly unbelievable to see their faces light up when they are presented with such a gift"

By Marc Fein
|  Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012  |  Updated 11:55 AM CDT
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The kids at Folsom Elementary in Prosper have been bringing stuffed animals to school, not for themselves, but to help sick kids feel better.

Mark Fein, NBC 5 News

The kids at Folsom Elementary in Prosper have been bringing stuffed animals to school, not for themselves, but to help sick kids feel better.

The kids at Folsom Elementary in Prosper have been bringing stuffed animals by the box load to school. But they're not for themselves, they're to help sick kids feel better.

It all started with a letter from their classmate, Caroline Havard, a fourth grader who has been through an experience that not a lot of kids have.

Three years ago, Caroline found out she had Legg–Calvé–Perthes syndrome. It meant that a very active young girl, a soccer player, a gymnast, was going to be confined to crutches and a wheelchair for a very long time.

Two years later Caroline is back to normal physically, but she wanted to find a way to give back to everyone who helped her through a tough time.

Caroline's Mom, Kim Havard, said it's been a long road.

"The first day of school was really, really, really hard. We rolled her into second grade, and this is a vibrant amazing kid and she's always so happy and she just was so shy and had her head down," said Harvard. "But the people here at the school were so amazing, because they just embraced her and made her feel good and didn't make her feel different, and it helped a lot."

While the school helped a lot, they didn't help quite as much as the folks at Scottish Rite Children's Hospital. Caroline said she went to the doctor every four months for two years to have a check up and an MRI to see if her hip was healing. And every single time she went, they gave her a cool stuffed animal to make her feel better.

Caroline still cherishes the first stuffed animal she got, George. George ultimately became the motivation for what became Caroline Cares.

Caroline wanted every kid who went to Scottish Rite to have an animal just like she did when they were there.

"I used him so much that we had to sew him back up. If you look at him he's sort of torn. When I got my IV's I would hug him, so it would help me not think about it going in," said Caroline.

"I loved how I got stuffed animals, and I would love people who go through something harder than I did to have a stuffed animal too. A stuffed animal to hug or something."

Children at Folsom Elementary School answered the call, first one box, then another. At one point Caroline's mom thought they might need a U-Haul to make the trip to Scottish Rite.

"This is such a great positive thing for us to do because Caroline had been though such a hard time herself and I thought for her to be thinking of others at the end of her ordeal was the most terrific thing and we were really proud to get behind her and help her with this," said Folsom Elementary principal Brenda Keener.

On a delivery trip with Caroline to Scottish Rite in Dallas the folks at the hospital were in awe of the number of animals Caroline had collected and very appreciative of her efforts.

"We want children to feel comfortable and maybe a little bit distracted. Caroline is one of our patients who decided to give back and it's the greatest honor we could have," said Becky Britt with Scottish Rite's public relations department.

"She's truly an inspiration, and I thank her so much, the generosity is incredible," said Dr. Megan Young a Pediatric Orthopedic Fellow at Scottish Rite Hospital. "I think she's done a great job and I commend her for her work, it's truly a large and generous gift."

Caroline's dad knows the ultimate gift for his daughter may be the lesson learned.

"I'm happy that she takes adversity as an opportunity to do something with it instead of having it do something to her," said Rick Havard.

The folks at Scottish Rite are happy they'll be able to share Caroline's caring message with others.

"Just a small thing can make a big difference," said Caroline. "I want to make sure that the Scottish Rite hospital always has stuffed animals to give to sick kids."

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