Sometimes one good deed snowballs and that’s how Hugs From Lucie began. In December 2008, Belinda Amrhein and her ten-year-old daughter Lucie sorted through old toys and dolls — the ones Lucie no longer played with. Lucie had to decide whether to toss, sell or donate them. She decided to give her doll collection to the pre-school her younger brother was attending. The Family Affair Preschool Learning Center held a special place in her heart because she, too, went there when her family first moved to Maryland from Tournai, Belgium. Back then, Lucie didn’t even speak English, yet the teachers and students made her feel welcome. She loved it there and knew her dolls would be loved, too.
To Lucie’s surprise, she received a thank you card from Ms. Jenny, her brother’s teacher, along with a Build-a-Bear Workshop gift card. Inscribed on the plastic card were the words, “For Good Use.” These words confused Lucie a little, especially since she hadn’t expected to receive anything in return for her donation to the school. That’s when she decided to use the card to make bears for less fortunate children.
Lucie’s mom found additional sponsors, and her whole family helped build the first 18 bears! They were also able to purchase five board games. The Build-a-Bear managers, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Towson Town Center in Maryland, donated additional coloring books, placemats, and stickers.
On December 23, 2008, they delivered their first set of bears — and hugs — to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore. As Lucie delivered her first hug and handed over the very first bear to a little girl named Kathryn, Lucie was changed forever. Kathryn became Lucie’s little hero. Because of Kathryn, Lucie vowed to make this Christmas story go on— for Kathryn and all the other children who need comfort during times of trauma. Just like Lucie’s mom Belinda says, “Those little ones are going through way more than most of us could ever imagine. They are Lucie’s heroes, braver than most of us will ever be.”