Diane Last, mother of two, founded Kelsey’s Milwaukee Hugs, an organization that collects teddy bears and sends them to abused children, or in this case, children affected by natural disaster.
After speaking with state Rep. Bill White (R-Joplin), Last has announced a teddy bear drive Thursday at Flux Design, 811 E. Vienna Ave., Milwaukee, starting at 5 p.m.
Last's teddy bear crusade started with a video.
“I saw a YouTube video a few years ago about Kelsey Briggs,” Last said. Briggs was a 2-year-old Oklahoma girl who was beaten to death in 2005 by her mother and stepfather.
“She lost her life from child abuse,” Last said. “And it was awful because her grandmother, Kathy Briggs, was fighting the whole time trying to save her life while her paternal father was in Iraq, but the grandmother didn’t have any rights.”
Last felt a need to get involved in the fight against child abuse and joined the group called Kelsey’s Purpose, a group started by Kelsey’s grandmother, before beginning her own group.
“I started a chapter of Hugs Across America for Kelsey,” Last said. “The person who started that organization was a school teacher during the September 11 attacks. She had a teddy bear in the classroom and noticed how much it comforted the students, so she brought in a teddy bear for each of the kids and started the program.”
Last sends messages of hope to children throughout the Milwaukee region with the teddy bears she collects. Her house is filled with 200 to 300 teddy bears at any given time, a strong testament to how much the community has supported her efforts.
Last said people have been very responsive to both her own teddy bear drives and the ones set up by outside groups to support her organization.
Nevertheless, Last said she would like to see a larger response to stopping abuse altogether, rather than attempting to deal with the after-effects. So when Last discovers another victim, she reaches out.
"I don’t need to meet or see the child. I just want to send them a teddy bear and show them there are good people out there who care,” she said.
Those interested in donating to Kelsey’s Milwaukee Hugs for either the Joplin tragedy or abused Milwaukee children can visit her website. You can donate a teddy bear or money for postage costs.
Permanent drop-off locations:
- Kelsey's Milwaukee Hugs
C/O Flux Design
811 E. Vienna Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53212
- America's Best Contacts and Eyeglasses
8661 S. Howell Road
Oak Creek, WI 53154
- Milwaukee Fire Department Administration Building
711 W. Wells