GRANGER TWP. — Adrian Suskiewicz opened the white box with care.
A tuft of soft fur poked out from the top.
It was the top of a beige teddy bear, and it was ready to go home with the young boy.
It was an exciting morning for the adults and students alike at Windfall Preschool in Granger Township as 40 Build-A-Bear teddy bears found homes.
Medina County Probate Judge Kevin Dunn and volunteers from the court met at the school at 4691 Windfall Road to distribute the stuffed teddy bears, part of a program that started in 2007 with juveniles on court-ordered community service creating the bears for special children in Medina County.
“Judge (John) Long started it; we have continued it,” Dunn said Thursday.
This year, five juveniles who are required to complete community service hours built the bears for the students at Windfall Preschool.
“(The) typical kid that comes through our court, who commits some type of offense, usually gets anywhere from eight to 32 hours of community service that is expected of them,” Dunn said.
Dunn said the juveniles do not know what type of community service project they will be completing until the day they arrive, and building the bears for the students is oftentimes an unexpected task.
“Build-A-Bear makes a big show out of assembling the bears, each one has a heart. You have to warm the heart up, you have to do a dance and all these things, so the kids are expected to do that on every bear,” Dunn said.
Dunn said the kids know where the bears will be going, and they learn to have empathy for those that are in more difficult situations than their own.
“Kids get to see that there are other children that have it a lot tougher than them,” Dunn said. “They think their circumstances are tough; it’s like nothing compared to where these kids are coming from here.”
Director of Children’s Services Kaye Stanley-Bryson said the bear giveaway usually gets rolling in August every year.
Medina County Probate Court Director of Programming Tony Miller said staff from the juvenile/ probate court donates to the project throughout the year, and in addition to him, two other individuals from the court volunteer to distribute bears.
“This is the part I love the most,” Miller said. “This is where not only we get to hand out the bears, but a lot of staff from the juvenile/probate court donate money throughout the year and that money goes so we can pay for all of the materials involved.”
Patti Hetkey, community relations coordinator for the Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said previously that Windfall serves about 65 students, and has three grade levels known as early, middle and upper in addition to its Early Intervention program, which serves children from birth until 3.
Dunn said it is incredible to see the joy that the bears bring to many of the children at the school.
“Sometimes little kids have a lot of special needs and they might not communicate with you, me, or anyone else, but the comfort of just holding one of those things is pretty neat,” Dunn said.