When Ava Allen was three years old, her twin sister, Emme, broke her arm. On the ambulance ride, a paramedic gave Emme a tan teddy bear with a red bow. Emme hugged Spencer Bear, as he became known, and it helped distract the sisters from the tumult around them.
Three years later, when Emme ended up back in an ambulance with a seizure, six-year-old Ava asked if Emme could have another stuffed animal. Then, she learned that the program had been discontinued -- there was no more funding. That spurred the sisters to create Emergency Cuddles for Kids, which provides stuffed animals for Orlando, Fla.-area children in emergency situations.
Ava, an eighth grader and Speller 123, said the girls had always collected donations on their birthday instead of getting presents. When they turned seven, they decided to collect stuffed animals. In the years since, the girls have donated to the local ambulance center, a children's home, a homeless shelter for women and children and Operation Christmas Child. They haven't kept track of how many stuffed animals they've collected, but said it has to have been in the hundreds.
"It's really special that we get to do this," Ava said. "It reminds us how blessed we are, that we can do this for other people."
Emme said the organization started as a way for them to do something positive, to help other kids who are in scary situations.
"It feels good, like you're doing something good and positive," she said. "It reminds us to look for something positive, even when things are hard."
For years, the girls have only collected from friends, at their birthday. But with Ava studying for the Bee, they postponed their April tradition until the summer. Now, they intend to open it up to the community, too. To see more, visit http://www.emergencycuddles.org.
Learn about more spellers with causes near and dear to their hearts in this video from the Bee's Facebook page:
Live From The 2018 National Spelling Bee -- Spellers with Causes: three spellers (and one former speller) who do good in their communities in major ways.Posted by Scripps National Spelling Bee on Tuesday, May 29, 2018