12-Year-Old American Boy Reaches Out to Haitian Children

Every month, Blare plans to send notebooks, crayons, and yo-yos as well as teddy bears.
by Catholic.net Staff Writer | Source: Catholic.net
    A 12-year-old 7th grader has proved in a big way that no one is too young to be an apostle for Christ. Blare Gooch, who is 25 percent Haitian and dreams of someday competing on Haiti's national soccer team, started Blare’s Bears for Haiti, hoping to collect 5,000 teddy bears for the children of Haiti – and has 7,000 already. A newscast showing Haitian children searching for their parents after the January earthquake left Blare wishing he could give those kids a hug. He resolved to do the next best thing: organize a teddy bear drive to give kids in Haiti something to hug. Blare plans to collect 20,000 teddy bears by March 15.

    Every month, Blare plans to send notebooks, crayons, and yo-yos as well as teddy bears to Haiti. Blare is the first to acknowledge that he’s not doing this alone. Just like the apostles whom Christ sent out two by two, Blare has a partner – Rays of Hope for Haiti, an all-volunteer organization that ships food, medicine, water, and clothes to Haiti on a regular basis. According to Blare’s mother, Lisa, shipping Blare’s Bears through Rays of Hope for Haiti ensures that the teddy bears and other supplies are not in danger of being resold and are truly given to children in need.

    Blare started out using the resources available to any typical kid his age. First, he donated three bears, two that he already owned and a new one that he and his father, Johrone, bought. Then Blare, who attends St. Thomas the Apostle School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said, "I put it on my Facebook page and a teacher let me announce it on the PA at school. Several kids came up to me afterward to say they wanted to donate teddy bears."  

    Hoping to spread the word about Blare’s Bears, Lisa Gooch contacted Kathleen Conklin, director of K4J (Kids for Jesus), a virtue program for children from preschool through 4th grade, with a 5th through 8th grade Captains leadership component. Indeed, Blare exemplifies the apostolic mission of K4J to inspire young people to do big things for God and others. Kathleen commented, “Children very naturally want to be generous with their time and talent.  They can do incredible things when given the proper challenge, tools, and motivation.  I think the greatest thing about our work in K4J is that we see young people become self-motivated to form themselves into Catholics who have strong character and leadership abilities.  They are proud of their faith and desire to live with virtue out of love for Jesus.  There is nothing better than that.  I applaud Blare and his parents.”

    Children and families who want to send bears, notebooks, crayons, or yo-yos should ship them to HF1 1557 Michigan Ave. NE Grand Rapids 49503.  The bears are scheduled to ship the end of April. Those who want to donate money to cover shipping costs should send a check to Rays of Hope For Haiti, 946 Burton St. SE. Grand Rapids, MI 49507. Please write “Blare’s Bears for Haiti in the memo area of your check. Donations to Rays of Hope for Haiti are tax-deductible. For more information, visit www.thunder945.com or “Blare's Bears for Haiti” Facebook Fan page.

    After Blare’s Bears ship, Lisa Gooch said she will take Blare to a Build-A-Bear Workshop to create a bear to commemorate his compassion. She said, "I know that one day, a long time from now, I will see that bear in his office."

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