Buckners Story of Athletes That Care


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East Texas high school athletes collect backpacks, stuffed animals for Buckner foster children

January 31, 2017

By John Hall

When children are removed from their home due to neglect or abuse, it often happens quickly. As a result, children many times leave most of their belongings behind. What they do take with them typically accompanies them in a plastic trash bag.

It’s a time of uncertainty and fear for children. No one and nothing seems familiar. Comfort is hard to find. Until now, thanks to a growing group of East Texas high school athletes called Athletes Who Care who are collecting backpacks and stuffed animals for children served through Buckner foster care. The teens have collected roughly 300 backpacks and animals, and the effort has spread to Dallas as well.

“We just thought having a backpack would help move their stuff and introduce them into a foster home. When we spoke to the lady at Buckner, she said that could really help,” LeAnn James, 13, said.

“We’ve had a lot of stuffed animals when we were younger and still do,” Joelle Newton, 15, said. “They’re a symbol of comfort. Some people have a stuffed animal they sleep with. I even still have a couple. When you hold a stuffed animal, it’s comforting.”

Debbie Sceroler, program director of Foster Care & Adoption in Longview praised the group’s desire to help vulnerable children in their community. They have found a way to provide practical help and hope to children during an often painful and confusing time.

“These amazing young ladies took an idea as simple as collecting used backpacks and satchels that we all have laying around, and turned it into a ministry that is touching the lives of precious children who have been victimized by abuse or neglect,” she said. “With a sweet message and stuffed animal tucked inside each backpack, children are receiving a message of love, hope and comfort.”

As the young ladies have told others what they’re doing, people have happily helped the effort. A softball coach donated $150 and encouraged his team to get involved. Other athletes, friends and family members have donated to the cause.

“People have surprised me,” said Lauren James, 15. “My friends and I have been able to connect with a bunch of other people in the community, a bunch of sports friends and such. So a lot of people know about it.”