It’s almost that time of year again! Time for the splendor and joy of the Martha’s Vineyard Teddy Bear Suite, celebrating its seventh year of creating holiday memories for so many people.
However, the Teddy Bear Suite is so much more than an event. It is one of the biggest fundraisers for the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club, and in particular, its Healthy Happy Kids (H2K) program that’s targeting childhood hunger and food insecurity.
Last year, our annual holiday event raised $35,000, which was enough to launch and maintain the new H2K program. It provides free, substantial snacks and food to kids in the After School Program during the school year, and free lunch and snack during the Club summer programs, and more.
Healthy Happy Kids now serves and supports about 500 elementary school-aged children each week, and the need is growing. Last year, Martha’s Vineyard learned just how severe childhood hunger and food insecurity is here on the island. The Vineyard Gazette wrote a story that shocked many of us. People and business did so much to help. However, we need to do even more.
The Island Shuffle
It’s amazing what a mother can do for her children. Meet Stacey Smith, a young, dynamic mother, who grew up on the Island, and is too familiar with the Island Shuffle. If you don’t know what that is, the Island shuffle is when families have to move repeatedly from house-to-house, with one form of housing in the Winter and another during the Summer.
It can be relatively easy to find an affordable Winter rental, but come Summer, it’s almost impossible. Stacey found herself in that situation. Last year, after she had to leave her rental with her mom, and twin 6 1/2 year old daughters, Maddison and Anabelle, and she found herself with no options.
Her only solution — a tiny camper in a friend’s backyard. Four people, one small camper, with limited room. Imagine a mini-fridge for meals for four. How does a mother prepare and make three meals a day for her children when this is your home?
Every meal was a challenge, and if you know little kids, they are always hungry. Can you imagine the joy Stacey felt when she went to register her little girls for camp at the Boys & Girls Club, and found out that snacks and lunch were provided, daily?
The relief was palpable. Lunches are always tough for kids, but the lack of space their family was working with made it even harder. Stacey could drop off her girls and go to work not ,worrying about the girls having enough to eat. Each day they had the chance to have good, healthy food throughout the day, and were big fans of the sandwiches and fruit, according to Stacey.
With the help of the Boys & Girls Club, Maddison and Anabelle were able to have a fun, dynamic Summer, while Stacey was working, and mom got to worry a lot less.
Flash forward a couple of months of super fun camp for the girls, and now, Stacey works at the Boys & Girls Club as its administrative assistant. She has a full-time job with benefits, has a rental home, for now. Come June, she is back to square one.
This is just one story from one family who has had their life bettered from Healthy Happy Kids and the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club.
There are so many more stories from families on the Island — ones that may not have such a bright spot in them, but by donating to the Martha’s Vineyard Teddy Bear Suite Fundraiser, you can help continue the fight against childhood hunger.
Healthy Happy Kids now costs more than $50,000 a year, and that number is growing. The Boys & Girls Club has had a 274% increase in enrollment, since last year. The need for affordable after school childcare is so great, and the need to prevent children from going hungry grows too.
With the Martha’s Vineyard Teddy Bear Suite Fundraiser, our goal this year is to raise as much money as possible this year, and continue to let kids focus on being kids, and not worry about where their next meal is coming from.
My Teddy Bear Suite blog collaborator and colleague, Guinevere Cramer, first brought Stacey’s story to light. You can read more and also see what the MVBGC is doing with some local farms and how they’re trying to address food needs on the weekends. Read more here