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Operation Snuggle: 2,000 Hugs Are On Their Way To Newtown

Patch dropped off 2,000 stuffed animals and more to Mrs. Claus on Friday for Newtown's Christmas Party Saturday.

Now 2,000 stuffed animals and assorted other bits of fun are on their way to Newtown for a Christmas Party Saturday.

Eastern Connecticut Patches launched Operation Snuggle Newtown on Monday, and 92 local businesses across our 41 sites quickly volunteered to serve as drop-off points for stuffed animals to send to Newtown. In addition to plush toys, residents donated candy, angel pins, books, boxes of crayons, toys, games, and tucked in notes of sympathy and condolence.

In all, we believe we collected around 5,000 items in total.

We found Santa and Mrs. Claus on Newtown Patch (in her day-life, Mrs. Claus is Lynn Samperi, a Wallingford resident) and their plans for a daylong Christmas party on Saturday in Newtown. Because Newtown is so inundated with outsiders right now while trying to grieve for their losses, we decided to work through the Clauses to send our donations to town.

So the party on Saturday will hopefully bring some Christmas joy to the children (and adults) of that besieged little community, as they struggle to find their way through the monstrous sadness that has enveloped them. In addition to the gifts from all of you, there have been donations of tons of food, beverages, arts and crafts projects, music and fun.

In addition to the amazing generosity of the Patch readers, we could not have pulled this off without the help of Connecticut Rental Center in Middletown. Owner Tom Byrne and his crew volunteered storage space and trucked everything to our meeting place in Cheshire with Mrs. Claus on Friday.

Greene Moving and Storage in Manchester has donated storage space for us to hold the remaining several thousand stuffed animals. After the first of the year, these will be donated to Connecticut State Police and local departments so officers can have a bear or two in their cruisers to give to children at traumatic scenes.

And the Valenti Motor Group in Mystic loaned Patch a cargo van to collect many hundreds of bears along the shoreline.

Thank you to everyone who donated, who took in the donations, and who helped make this possible. We hope in some small way it helps.

[Editor's note: This article was originally published on Dec. 21. The publication date was changed for layout purposes.]

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