Challenge Girls bring Simple Gifts and Great Joy

News 15A mountain of teddy bears and the smile of grateful children were the reward for the recent hard work of the Wakefield Challenge club. Currently Wakefield, Rhode Island has two teams, one of 5th graders and another of 7th and 8th graders. The club recently orchestrated activities at their local parish to collect close to 200 bears for the needy children at the McCauley Village in downtown Providence. The girls gathered on December 5, 2010 in Helen Bouchard Hall at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wakefield, RI. There they hosted a tea party to collect the teddy bears. Parishioners and friends streamed in after Mass carrying new and gently used bears. They were offered refreshments and an opportunity to make personal name tags for their bears. Several children generously offered one or more of their own stuffed animals for the cause. The true spirit of Christmas reigned as each person presented their gift without expecting anything in return. Children continued to make gifts of their teddy bears during religious education classes that week.Even the pastor, Fr. Nicholas Smith, contributed a teddy bear, complete with gift basket and trimmings. After he gave the high school leaders at the school a blessing, one of the students, Kara O’Donnell commented, “Fr. Nick’s vocation for me is so real because of the way that he lives it. I can tell that he lives it with joy.” Several bears were also dropped off at Monsignor Clarke School collected by Challenge member Callan O’Neill. She said, “It feels really good to get out there and do something for someone else and to make them smile during the Christmas season. It just doesn’t get better than that!” The nearly 200 bears were collected by Friday, December 10, and brought to McCauley Village to the delight of more than 40 children and their mothers. The Challenge girls played games with the children, and with the oldest children prepared a skit about St. Nicholas. They sang and danced to Christmas music, played musical chairs, “Duck, Duck Goose” and colored Christmas images. All enjoyed cookies and juice provided by Challenge families. Only later were the children surprised with the opportunity to select a bear. Elizabeth Hopkins, a 5th grader said, “When the kids got their teddy bears, I felt as joyful and excited as they did!” Even the moms had the chance to pick out a bear. Challenge is designed to help adolescent girls go out into the world as strong and authentic Catholic role models, where they can make a positive impact, and Challenge’s ‘recipe’ for success is based on the combination of doing apostolic work and formation. Teams of friends meet together weekly to learn more about their faith and put it into action through monthly service projects.