One woman’s words and another woman’s collection of hundreds of stuffed animals led to the delivery of Christmas presents for fostered children across the country.
For Mechelle Mesec and her coworkers a book passed around the office, “Peter’s Lullaby,” a true story of a child growing up in Plattsburgh with an abusive mother, was a devastating story.
For Mesec the book was a catalyst that drove her to help, so she began collecting teddy bears in 2011.
“I started with a goal of 934 bears, because Peter lived 934 days—he was just a baby,” Mesec said. “We were able to send 1,166 bears (in 2011).”
For Christmas 2012, Mesec and others shipped 1092 bears.
Mesec said her campaign for teddy bears was inspired when a co-worker named Beth Bryer, who was attending SUNY Plattsburgh for child services, brought the book “Peter’s Lullaby” in. Mesec said the book quickly circulated around the office.
“When Beth told us about this program it broke our hearts,” Mesec said. “I started thinking about all the bears I had collected over the years and how much better they would be with a kid than in my attic.”
“Peter’s Lullaby” was written by Jeanie Fowler about her painful childhood.
Jeanie’s mother, an alcoholic, beat Jeanie and her brother Peter.
After being taken from their mother, Jeanie and her brother were put into loving foster homes, but their mother later got them back and brought them to Chicago where Jeanier lived for an entire year, tied up in a closet with a bucket.
Jeanie’s brother Peter lived in the bathroom, tied to a heater until his mother beat him to death with a wooden ironing board.
Mesec said in the book, Jeanie wrote how her brother Peter’s humming at night brought her comfort that he was still alive and gave her the strength to go on another day.
With the restraints cutting into her wrists, Peter’s humming made her feel OK to sleep.
“It’s a ‘should read,’ but a very hard read,” Mesec said. “It’ll break your heart.”
After reading the book, Mesec became aware of Jeanie’s charitable organization that tries to provide foster children with comforts through Big Family of Michigan.
In a video on Jeanie’s website, Jeanie said “I saw a real need to give to these children things that I didn’t get when I was in the system. And so I started collecting teddy bears for children to have something soft to hang onto to them, giving them a birthday party to acknowledge that they existed and that people cared about them.”
Jeanie started “Big Family of Michigan” in memory of Peter to help foster children so they would not go through what she and her siblings endured.
The organization cares for kids from the time they enter the foster system until they are fostered out, and provides items including clothes, personal items, suitcases and school supplies.
Jeanie believes every child needs a teddy bear.
Mesec said the collection of the bears was a great collaborative effort.
“Everyone wanted to help,” Mesec said. “Bears came from so many places and people, we also picked them up at lawn sales, garage sales and flea markets. Some given free and some for 25 cents. The bears all got a bath, a ribbon, if needed new stuffing, new noses or surgery.”
“It was really fun doing it, and it took some of the pain from the book,” Mesec said. “Anything good to wipe out something bad is always a good thing.”
Mesec wanted to thank Alissa Hoff, the American Legion, Amy LeClair, Anne Brown, April Guynup, Ausable school, Barbara Boyea, Beekmantown School, Bonnie Benner, Carmelle Monette, Cindy Decoste, CVPHMC, Darcey Castine, David and Sandy Schwartz, David Belrose, Debbie Chapmen, Diane Brockway, Dolly Leturneau, Donna Bechard, Elizabeth Bryer, Eye Care for the Adirondack, Genienkeh Bingo Hall, Jane Hercht & Friends in Vt. Jason Lauren, Jean LaBombard, Jessica McGillin, Jim Seguin, Judy Duffina, Julie Everleth, Kendra Hawksby, Kristie Berube, Laura Bechard, Lisa Lapoint, Lisa LaValley, Marilyn Parsons, Matthew Mesec, Mooers School, Branda Babbie, OLVA, Peru School, Russell Mesec, Sandy Stone, Sara Armes, Shannon Ryan, St. Mary’s Mission, St. Vincent De Paul, Stephanie Brown, and World Warehouse.