The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 14, 2013

Cuddles campaign stuffing a Honda

JOHNSTOWN — How many stuffed animals will it take to fill a Fit?

Cuddles for Kids has partnered with Thomas Team Honda to hold the “Fill the Fit” promotion that is asking people to stop by the dealership on Bedford Street, drop off a new stuffed animal in a 2013 Honda Fit and then guess how many it will take to fill the vehicle.

The promotion will run through March, and the person with the closest guess will win a $250 cash prize courtesy of Thomas Team Honda.

Toy donations will benefit Beginnings Inc., Professional Family Care and the Women’s Help Center. Cuddles for Kids will make an additional $100 donation to each agency.

Thomas Team Honda also will donate a $250 match to the Cuddles for Kids Fund.

“The two main purposes of this is to get the word out about Cuddles for Kids and to help a few agencies that help children in tough situations,” said Cuddles for Kids founder Conner Hagins, 16. “It’s all about giving back, and I have always tried to take care of our community first and then reach out nationally – and surprisingly, through the generosity of others, I am able to accomplish both.”

Bill Ingram, general manager and operating partner at Thomas Team Honda, said dealership employees are community-minded and like to get involved with feel-good projects.

“This is a clever idea, and with this being the Easter season, we wanted to be able to help others,” Ingram said. “We encourage our customers to make a donation and take a guess and be a part of the fun.”

Conner, a student at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, started Cuddles for Kids seven years ago with the idea of collecting new stuffed animals and toys and donating them to local charities for children in need.

The campaign has expanded to the point where it has become be a year-round project that not only benefits local organizations but also agencies across the country.

Since its inception, Cuddles for Kids has donated more than 50,000 items. The organization sent toys to survivors of the Sandy Hook, Conn., elementary school shooting.

“It’s become such a huge part of my life and has made me appreciate what I have.” Conner said. “The fact that I am making a difference in the lives of others is really hard to wrap your head around sometimes, but it’s what I do and what I believe in.”

Anyone interested in making a monetary donation can send checks to the Cuddles for Kids Fund, c/o Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, 116 Market St., Johns­town, Pa. 15901.

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