Non-profit asks for public’s help in gifting stuffed animals to kids in Missouri dealing with trauma

HOLLISTER, Mo. – The Junior Auxiliary of Taney County is asking for the public’s help to continue its mission of giving stuffed animals to kids who have suffered traumatic experiences.

The project, originally called “Trauma Bears,” started in 2009 and is the JATC’s longest-running project. Over the years, the program changed its name to “Tender Critters” when people began donating different kinds of stuffed animals.

Since the program’s inception, JATC has collected stuffed animals year-round to give to children who have been through distressing life experiences such as abuse, family death, medical diagnoses and other traumas to hopefully find some comfort. Now the group is asking the public for donations of 6- to 18-inch stuffed companions to continue the mission.

Legends in Concert, Branson Bank and several veterans associations have teamed up with the JATC to help obtain more critters for traumatized children. Individuals can donate new stuffed animals at monthly JATC meetings, or drop them off at Binswanger Glass in Branson. Additional donation bins also are located at various spots around town.

Tender Critters chair and JATC Assistant Treasurer Sue Kelly told The Heartlander the group often gives donated stuffed animals to emergency rooms for nurses to hand out to children who are in distress or battling a diagnosis. The critters also are sent to local fire departments, the sheriff’s department and the county health department for when a child is getting vaccinated and may need additional comfort.

Kelly says the JATC takes the original tags off each donation and places their own patch on the critter so each child knows where it came from. The nonprofit used to collect roughly 200 donations each month, but that number significantly decreased during the pandemic. 

Working hard to get back to that point as COVID-19 cases continue to decline, the JATC donated 175 stuffed friends in February. However, the group is still asking for the public’s help as the pandemic only increased the number of kids who may need some extra comfort. 

The group’s main objectives for the program is to mitigate scary experiences, help conquer anxiety and create reassurance. Those interested in donating or contributing can email the Junior Auxiliary of Taney County at or visit its website here.

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