Two local sisters who spent the week collecting donated teddy bears for children in Newtown, Connecticut will send their first bunch there on Friday.
Emily Donnellan, who teaches special needs students in Gloucester and who is also a karate instructor at Cervizzi's Martial Arts in Lynnfield, told local media on Thursday that she is driving down to Newtown with the bears, which will be distributed to children by that town's local newspaper, the Newtown Bee. Her sister, Elizabeth, makes the same trip on Saturday with the rest of the bears.
The effort started last week with a Facebook page created by the two sisters that asked people to donate the bears to children in Newtown. From there, friends, relatives and others in surrounding were among those who allowed space to be used for the dropoff boxes. A Gloucester company also donated a van for bringing the bears to Connecticut. "It was literally just a Facebook page," said Emily.
Emily recalled how the idea began last Friday night when she was at home thinking about the shootings. She and her sister posted the Facebook page soon after, and people started sharing it. In just a few days, Emily reported that people from numerous states plus Canada had inquired or donated bears.
"As an elementary school teacher it really hit close to home," said Emily, adding that she found herself at the time contemplating "what would comfort a child at this time?"
At the time she spoke with Lynnfield Patch and a reporter from one of Lynnfield's weekly papers, Emily reported that she had about 75 teddy bears just outside in the back seat of her. Another couple of boxes of bears were inside Cervizzi's, and one or two parents were spotted dropping off additional ones. In total, about a dozen other dropoff boxes in nearby towns were receiving donations as well. An update on the Facebook page later said that 228 bears were collected, while also showing pictures of some of the donations received in Watertown and elsewhere.
Emily, who lives in Saugus, has taught at Cervizzi's for 13 years and has studied martial arts for 15 years. She is a fourth-degree black belt who teaches Kempo, Goju Ryu, and Jiu Jitsu. In Gloucester, she teaches special needs students at the elementary school level. Her sister Elizabeth lives in Revere and teaches middle school in Watertown.
"Even if a kid smiles for 10 seconds because they have a new bear, it's worth it," said Emily.