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He wants to help other kids
Helping troubled children one stuffed toy at a time
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• WHAT: Stuffed animal drive to help frightened kids
• WHERE: Lincoln School at 750 East Yosemite Ave.
• WHEN: Next Monday through Friday (May 7-11) from 8 to 8:45 a.m.
• MORE INFO: Call Mike Gaston at Lincoln School at (209) 858-7320

Lincoln School sixth grader, Tylor Axtell, wants to make a difference in the lives of other young kids one stuffed animal at a time.

It’s that desire to reach out to other youngsters which prompted him to start collecting as many stuffed animals as he possibly can to give away.

This is not a project that simply came out of the blue for Tyrol. It was “totally his idea,” said Lincoln School’s program coordinator and science teacher Mike Gaston who is helping the young student to reach his goal.

Next week, from Monday to Friday (May 7-11), those who would like to help Tyrol’s Stuffed Animal Donation project may drop off new or slightly used teddy bears and/or other stuffed animals in front of the school between 8 and 8:45 a.m. just before the start of classes. Lincoln School is located at 750 E. Yosemite Avenue.

Gaston said they may also schedule another time for the drop-off for the convenience of those who can’t make it to the school that early in the morning.

In the donation flyer that Tylor made with the help of Gaston, the budding organizer explained the reason behind his project in a brief but heartbreaking story – his own story. He wrote:

“When I was 4 years old, I was removed from my mother and father. I am 11 years old now; it was my dad’s birthday, and I was placed in six different foster homes in three days.

“When I was removed from my house it was very scary, I didn’t know why I was being removed; just that I was sad, mad, and not happy. The CPS (Child Protective Services) worker gave me a stuffed K-9 dog to comfort me. I still have this stuffed animal, and it is very special to me.

“Because of my experience, I want to collect as many stuffed animals as possible and then give them to CPS, Police, Fire and EMT personnel. I don’t want other kids to be afraid because there are not enough stuffed animals for them.”

Tylor now lives with his grandmother.

Gaston said schools were just starting with the STAR testing when Tylor broached the idea for his project.

“I really didn’t think he was going to go through with it. After the testing, I said, ‘ok, STAR testing is over. Let’s talk about it.’ He was concerned that we won’t get enough stuffed animals,” said Gaston who was duly impressed with the sixth grader.

Tylor, he said, is in a special day class at Lincoln School due to a diagnosis of mild retardation. “So this is a huge project for him.”

That he has stepped up to the plate with this donation proposal is even more impressive considering Tylor was a student who, at the beginning of the school  year, could hardly walk across the school campus by himself because “he was always worried” about how the other kids would react to his speech and reading problem. Gaston said he found out about these things about Tylor when his grandmother came to the school and explained her grandson’s concerns.

“So to come out of his shell like this is huge,” said Gaston.

He laughed as he recalled asking Tylor at the outset how many toys he would like to collect.

“And he said, ‘like a hundred.’”

Gaston then asked young Tylor about how they were going to get a hundred stuffed toys together.

“Well, I have a bunch of bags. We’re going to put them in a bag,” was the student’s innocent response.

Gaston is currently working with the school’s head custodian about having bins on Monday where donors can leave the stuffed toys. He is also thinking of contacting one of the Laundromats in the area “to see if they’re going to take the slightly used ones” and have them cleaned.

While Tylor has mentioned about giving the donated toys to various service agencies, Gaston said “we have not gone that far yet” as far as contacting them.

With just word of mouth, Tylor’s project has already attracted a lot of attention and potential response from various schools’ student bodies, campus leadership groups, as well as members of the community who know Tylor’s grandmother.

“This is really touching people, just amazing, and he wants to share his story,” Gaston said.

Teachers as well as school district administrators and other school districts such as Salida Unified have also responded to Tylor’s project, he said.

Every day, there is “so much negative stuff, and here’s an innocent boy who just wants to collect stuffed animals, who is just concerned about others,” noted Gaston.

“He’s excited about it; he’s really ready. And he’s so passionate about it, so passionate that on Monday, when we were picking the date for (donation) pickup, I totally forgot that on Monday his class is going to Columbia for gold panning. So I said, ‘Tyler, it’s your field trip.’ But he said, ‘no, I’m not going.’ He wants to be there and make sure the stuffed animals show up. He’s giving up his field trip; he’d rather be there for the pick-up,” Gaston said.

For further questions about Tylor’s Stuffed Animal Donation project, contact Mike Gaston at Lincoln Elementary School at (209) 858-7320..