CHILLICOTHE - Every year for the past 10 years Taylor Larson of Chillicothe has collected stuffed animals for OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois. 

At 8 years old Larson was hospitalized due to a ruptured appendix where she received a cuddly bear from 97.3 NASH FM formerly known as 97.3 River Country. Her bear meant so much to her she decided she wanted to help other children in similar situations to hers. This lead her to found Cuddles for Kids nonprofit at just 17 years old. 

Cuddles for Kids provides stuffed animals to children in Central Illinois who are hospitalized, in a children’s home, a victim of a natural disaster and other similar traumatic situations. Larson hopes through Cuddles for Kids she will be able to inspire kindness in others especially in young children. 

During her many years of philanthropy many doubted her ability to start and run a successful nonprofit at such a young age. She says, “No matter your age YOU can make a difference. It doesn’t matter if it is as simple as giving a child a stuffed animal or offering to help a neighbor going through a hard time. Small acts of kindness can have a lasting impact on someone’s life and those acts of kindness can spread to make a huge difference in the world.” 

This year Larson, now 19, is continuing to support the same drive that gifted her a cuddly friend so many years ago. The 97.3 NASH FM and Bob Lindsay Acura Teddy Bear Drive with support from Cuddles for Kids is running from now to Feb. 8. Larson with Cuddles for Kids is challenging children in Central Illinois to participate in Cuddles for Kids’ 21 Days of Kindness Challenge. This challenge is amid to make children make a conscious effort to do acts of kindness to others during the length of the drive. A child from each participating school and two children participating through the Cuddles for Kids website or social media will be selected for completing the challenge and going above and beyond for others in their community. 

To nominate a child please email Cuddles for Kids at teddybeardrive14@gmail.com. In addition many local businesses are holding Dollar Walls of Kindness,  selling Cuddles for Kids T-shirts, and are drop off locations to help Cuddles for Kids collect NEW stuffed animals with the tags still attached to donate to OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois. Donations, T-shirts and drop off locations are all available at http://teddybeardrive14.wixsite.com/cuddlesforkids or on Cuddles for Kids Facebook.