Over the next few days, my friend and I, went to several toy stores, department stores and boutiques searching for the perfect gifts. We loosed at cute little teddy bears, snugly kittens and sweet little puppy dogs. In the midst of our search, we found out we would need 1500 stuffed animals. The feeling was strong that we had to get one for every child, but that was a huge number. Okay, God. WOW!
As we thought about what the stuffed animal would be like, we thought it would be great to put a military ID tag on each, which read: “May God Bless America’s Children. Sending you hugs and prayers. Jeremiah 29:11″
My thoughts constantly returned to the children. Cost and logistics never entered my mind. Our entire country was hurting for these children. As we continued to refine out idea, we thought, “Let’s get lots of people involved”. So, we decided for every 10 dollar donation, we would place the givers name on the back of the ID tag, so when the kids received the animal they would know an actual person was praying for and loving them.
In our search for the perfect stuffed animal we ran across plenty of rejection. A sales woman who was dreadfully unreceptive and a toy company who thought the idea was good but the ID tags stopped them from helping. Would we have to scrap the ID tag? It seemed like such a significant part. We wanted these children to feel loved, individually. Cost had also become a factor for discouragement. The animal that we found was a cute little puppy but it was expensive. I asked God, “What do I do now?”
I live in a small town east of San Diego. There are no department stores or toy stores there at the time. I went into a little store and found the same stuffed animal. I talked to the sales woman and told her of my quest. She said, “Give me a minute, the buyer is in today.” I told the a buyer what I planned on doing for the children and she said, “Pick out anything you want, and I’ll get it at cost for you.” Wow, this was incredible news! I picked out the cute puppy stuffed animal and she added them up and it came to $14,512.50. My credit card limit was $3000 and full payment was required. Not knowing what to do I went home. Okay, you may find this hard to believe but it is absolutely the truth! In one of our files, I found a credit card that had never been activated. I called the credit card company and asked to activated the card. She said sure, and your credit limit is $15,300. No way! We had just enough to order the puppies and the dog tags.
Once the puppies arrived, the next step was to assemble the ID tags and ribbon. We would need lots of helping hands. I send out an email for help and the response was amazing. I will never forget that night! One the back porch there were 120 large boxes filled with puppies. By 1 am the puppies were tagged, boxed up and ready for shipping. It was truly a labor of love!
I may not have mentioned this before, but I hate debt. It scares me. So to have this huge credit card balance was way out of character for me. As the payment deadline drew near I was still several thousand dollars short. I still need about $4000 and had no idea where it was to come from. I had already petitioned the church and send out an email to my entire address book. I did not know what else to do.
The very next day I got an e-mail for a friend which read, “Hey Suzie, Mike and I are in New York and he wants to buy all the puppies you have left. Write back. Sandy.” Oh my gosh, I just started weeping. I couldn’t believe it. Talk about shock. In only a matter of hours, my prayer had been answered and the credit card bill was paid in full.
A couple weeks later we shipped off 1440 puppies to the Salvation Army in New York City. A special Christmas Toy Drive was taking place for the children. After the puppies had arrived, we received an invitation from the Salvation Army inviting us to attend this special event. It seems so amazing. Remember how i said we shipped 1440 puppies? It is because the final 60 puppies hadn’t come in yet. So, it seemed perfect that we would take them on the plane with us.
Without any kind of plan we didn’t know how to get these last puppies to the children. When got up in the morning in New York, and made our way to the our contact, Carlos. I remember meeting him and seeing the kindness that shone in his eyes. As we told him who we were and what we were doing in New York, a small crossed his face. He said he would be free later if we wanted to drive around to some of the fire stations and talk to the guys who lost firefighters. He said, “Do you have an of those puppies we could hand out?” Yes we did. So, we went from station to station, giving them to the crews to deliver to the children of the decreased firefighters. This was amazing. We met so many firemen. There was an unspoken sadness to them. For them, the devastation had been experienced first hand.
So, the questions is “Why do I believe?” Through this project, how could I not. Coincidence, maybe but God makes much more sense.