Kyler is in a transitional kindergarten class at St. Augustine Cathedral School in Kalamazoo. The class was given an assignment to do something to show mercy toward others. Kyler decided on the project based on his own experiences. He had been hospitalized and a nurse gave him a teddy bear to help him be brave in a scary situation. He still has that bear today and it still serves as a source of courage for him to be brave when he's scared.
For his project, Kyler collected stuffed animals to give to police, fire, EMS, and hospitals to give to children in stressful situations. Several were donated earlier this year in Barry County. The project is now one of the finalists in the Connecting with Community contest.
Sixth graders at TKMS are required to take a teen leadership class taught by Stacy Knorr and Mary Francisco. The class is offered four times per year and each class picks a community service project.
Ava had already taken the service learning class when she learned of Kyler's efforts through her mother who works with Kyler's mother.
"I helped Kyler put tags on the animals he collected and I thought it was a really cool idea," said Ava. "I thought it was a good project and asked my teachers about the leadership class doing it for their project."
Ava created a PowerPoint presentation about Kyler's 3B's and presented the idea to sixth-grade classes. They adopted it as their project and collected 122 stuffed animals for Kyler's 3B's.
"I was really surprised we got that many," said Ava. "We got a ton and it was great to see Kyler when I brought them to him."
Each stuffed animal gets a special “Kyler’s 3 B’s” handmade tag with a message on the back. On the back of each tag there is a message from Kyler reading:
“This little bear is just for you, he was sent to help you through. He may be small but he is strong and meant to help you calm your fears. He will be with you to give you strength because he is your...Be Brave Bear! Kyler’s 3 B’s (Be Brave Bears) was created by a 5-yearold that wanted to provide all children facing life challenges a comfort to help them through difficult times find their inner brave bear.”
Ave helped Kyler deliver some of the stuffed animals donated by the middle school students and was interviewed for the television segment.
"Kyler's kind of shy so I talked to them a lot about the project for him," she said. "He was really happy and so am I."
Ava said she really likes the service learning requirement at the middle school because it forces students to find ways to give back and be involved. "It (helping others) just makes me feel happy. It brings joy for me," she said. "I think everyone should get to try and do this."
That's exactly what Knorr wants for all students in the leadership classes. "Not all kids have the opportunity to do this kind of thing. This gives them that chance to see what it's like and maybe inspire them to continue, just like Ava. She took the class already and then spread it on to others. We like to hope others go on to continue helping others as well."
Ava will attend the Connecting with Community Awards dinner with Kyler when the winner will be announced.
Her mom, Holly, said she is very proud of what Ava has done and especially likes the middle school leadership class. "I think it's amazing. It's everything as a parent you want your child to be," she said.