Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Using the Buddy System to Bring Comfort

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Using the Buddy System to Bring Comfort

Article excerpt

TUSCALOOSA

Some people never outgrow stuffed animals. Even college students will sometimes bring their furry critters with them as a way to remember their childhood and seem closer to family.

"There's just something about having a stuffed animal. I felt safe, secure and it's very comforting," said 20-year-old Jennifer Fine, a University of Alabama junior and part of Gamma Phi Beta, Epsilon Lambda. "It was also a great listener. It never talked back, but if it had, I'm sure it would have given me great advice."

Many UA students had an opportunity to relive those childhood memories and help brighten the holidays for some community children with the help of Bama Buddies.

In its fourth year, Bama Buddies is a student-run, campuswide service project that allows students and organizations an opportunity to create and customize stuffed animals for distribution to area children. The project serves two purposes: It allows student organizations an opportunity to help the community during the holidays, and it brings those groups together in a collaborative effort.

"We use the buddies as a tool to bring the groups together, build relationships that can last beyond stuffing parties," said David Phelps, director of organizational leadership for The Source, which is responsible for coordinating all campus organizations. "Service is a fantastic unifier, whether it be through physical labor or putting stuffing into animals. People are more common than they realize, and sometimes all it takes is a pack of synthetic stuffing to break down barriers and open up conversations."

The project is simple. Organizations or individuals can register to attend a Build-A-Buddy Bonanza or throw an independent stuffing party. Students receive an animal, a bag of synthetic stuffing, a plastic heart and string to stitch the animal together. When the animal is stuffed, students give it a name.

"People get very stressed over what to name their buddy," Phelps said. "Some like to name it after themselves, others like to be more creative. …

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