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Local Foundation Donates Stuffed Animals, Toys To Children's Hospital

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It's tough to be in the hospital, especially if you're a child, but the day was brightened Wednesday morning for kids at Children's Hospital.

Carts at Children's Hospital were stuffed with stuffed animals and a wide array of other toys and playthings – 660 smiles worth of toys. A children's charity called Cuddles For Kids aims to make hospital stays a little bit brighter, and it works.

"Donations like this mean everything to the children and families that we serve here," CHP Child Life Services manager Ken Rudek said. "It gives them an opportunity to be a child. It gives them an opportunity for distraction, even for a minute, to take away from what they may be going through, what anxiety they may have."

The two large carts are rolled down the hall to the elevator. Final destination: Austin's Playroom, founded by the Mario Lemieux Foundation in the name of Mario's son.

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Cuddles For Kids was founded by 19-year-old Conner Hagins of Johnstown ten years ago.

"It started because my father was in the hospital, and he got a stuffed animal for a double bypass surgery," Hagins said. "I asked the nurse, 'does everyone get a stuffed animal?' Because as a kid, that's the one thing you want as you walk in the room. And they told me no. From that moment, it's almost been a lightbulb idea. Do something where everyone who's in the hospital, over the holidays or just while they're in there, gets a new toy or stuffed animal."

The plush toys were donated to Children's at the suggestion of Penguins employee and hospital volunteer Celina Pompeani.

After all, everyone needs a cuddle now and then.

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