In September, Valerie’s House assisted a graduate of its program in delivering dozens of “comfort bags” to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. The bags are stuffed with donated teddy bears, blankets, coloring books, crayons and letters from 18-year-old Austin Wolin.
When Austin was 12 years old, his father passed away. He was at the hospital when he heard the news. Austin remembers being offered a meal ticket and an informational packet in that moment. Through his efforts, children who lose a loved one will now have something to hold and somewhere to turn.
Austin has gathered 100 teddy bears, donated by Build-A-Bear Workshop, to give to grieving children. In August, he enlisted the help of his fellow boy scouts to stuff the bears into bags along with other donated items. Each bag contains a letter from Austin detailing his loss and his journey with Valerie’s House.
Austin and his mother, Tanya Wolin, were one of the first families to attend Valerie’s House in 2016. Austin has now graduated from the program and wants to give back to the organization. He’s including a brochure for Valerie’s House inside each bag.
“There’s no other way to get through that without support, I can tell you if I wasn’t in Valerie’s House, I would be on a totally different route than I am right now,” says Austin. He plans to continue working with Valerie’s House as a mentor to other grieving children.