COCONUT CREEK– A Lake Worth, Florida, family recently traveled to Jamaica with Food For The Poor to hand-deliver stuffed bears, puppies, rabbits, pandas, and koalas donated through The Ryan Batchelder Foundation.
“It was a really amazing experience,” said Meg Fitzgerald Batchelder, Ryan’s mother and founder of The Ryan Batchelder Foundation. “We were so impressed by the work of Food For The Poor.”
Each plush toy bears a tag with the initials “RB,” in memory of their 7-year-old son Ryan, who dreamed of becoming Santa Claus before he tragically died in a boating accident a year ago.
“My husband came up with the idea to fulfill Ryan’s dreams by comforting children in need with the gift of a stuffed animal,” said Batchelder.
With every stuffed animal purchased, The Ryan Batchelder Foundation, also known as Little Hugs, provides a new stuffed animal to children in some of the most impoverished areas of the Caribbean and Latin America. To date, Little Hugs has donated 3,000 stuffed animals to children in need through Food For The Poor’s Angels Of Hope program.
Ryan’s older brother, 10-year-old Josh Batchelder, traveled with his parents to Jamaica July 21-24.
“We are very proud of Josh,” said Meg Batchelder, who was impressed to see her son’s response to a difficult situation. “He felt comfortable walking up to people and grabbing their hands.”
Josh, who plays centerfield for the West Boynton Cobras travel baseball team, also felt at ease dribbling and shooting hoops with his dad on a basketball court at an Angels Of Hope home. In Jamaica, Food For The Poor donors generously sponsor more than 515 children in 25 orphanages.
In addition to distributing the stuffed animals to children, the mission group also shared Little Hugs with elderly and disabled residents at the Golden Age Home in Kingston, Jamaica. The home relies on Food For The Poor’s assistance to feed, clothe and care for the 360 residents.
“It felt as good to give out the Little Hugs at the elderly home as it did to the children,” said Batchelder.
While in Jamaica, the family attended a praise and worship service at Food For The Poor-Jamaica’s office in Kingston, served warm meals to the hungry at a homeless shelter, and helped to build a permanent home for a destitute family in McCook’s Pen in St. Catherine.
“It was very emotional to see the extreme poverty,” said Batchelder. “It has ignited a passion in me to do more than to write a check. I become emotional when I think how the First World, with all of its abundance, can let this happen.”
Batchelder said she reflected on Food For The Poor’s mission to help one person at a time, one family at a time, when she felt overwhelmed by the dire needs she saw. She already is planning a trip to distribute Little Hugs with friends and family in Haiti.