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Collecting for kids
One stuffed animal at a time for kids
A product of Ripon High School leadership team, Emily Lewis, is surrounded with stuffed animals she is collecting for youngsters at Childrens Hospital in Madera and for those at crisis centers throughout the valley. - photo by GLENN KAHL

RIPON - Ripon High senior, Emily Lewis, has made her first big step at improving the world for children – one stuffed animal at a time through a birthday wish.

Lewis was intent on taking part in her fourth leadership conference next May, but she needed a minimum of 100 hours of community service to be eligible to take part in the event.

A member of the leadership team at her high school, she had established a network with the friends she had made at the seminars she had already attended.  It was that network that would help her achieve the 1,000 stuffed animal goal she had set for herself.

Lewis set up a Facebook page entitled, “Emily’s 18 th Birthday Wish,” which asked that friends send her at least one stuffed animal sometime during her birthday month of September.  By the end of August she had already received more than 25 cuddly dogs, cats, bears and even a Ripon High football player complete with a red jersey and helmet.

The RHS senior said fellow students at her school and teachers alike have been joining in her drive that she hopes will make a difference for children who have found themselves in a crisis mode.

The leadership students from other high school represent campuses from Elk Grove to Los Gatos.  She told them if they couldn’t get the stuffed animals to her they should take them to a hospital or crisis center in their home area.  There are students collecting animals for her from Sierra High School, Florin High School, Rancho Cotati High School and Aptos High School.  She said her connections with friends she has made has created a domino effect in her support.

Three friends from Ripon High, Jessica Carmona, also in leadership, and Amy Rose and Kelly Jones have offered to help Lewis organize the incoming animals and get them to the hospitals in the Central Valley.

She first attended the (NCYLS) Northern California Youth leadership Seminar at Menlo College during her sophomore year and went back as a junior as a recruiter.  This coming May she hopes to return again as a senior crew member who all lead the sophomores at the seminar.

Lewis has also attended RYLA – Rotary International’s leadership camp.

Her four camps took her to Sonoma State, Santa Cruz for two years and Menlo College next year if she gains her 100 hours of community service.  Only one member of the leadership team is allowed to travel to the seminar, she said.

Drop off points for the public wanting to donate stuffed animals are Uecker’s State Farm Insurance and Oak Valley Community Bank, both in Ripon.  In Manteca it’s TSM Insurance at 117 North Maple Avenue and the Manteca Chamber of Commerce at the corner of North Main and North streets.  The Manteca-Lathrop Boys and Girls Club is also accepting donations. 

At the end of her senior year Lewis is hoping to attend a college that will give her the training she needs to be proficient in “Communications” in her professional years to come.