Twelve seventh- and eighth-graders from Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica visited the Build-A-Bear Workshop in Westwood on Friday, September 29th, to make teddy bears for Adams House, a shelter for battered women and their young children run by OPCC’s Sojourn Services. The Build-A-Bear Foundation donated the bears for the project.

The Lincoln Middle School students and their peer service leaders, ages 12 through 14, are enrolled in K9 Connection’s three-week training program to help at-risk youth learn about goal-setting, behavior change and self-esteem as they train homeless dogs to develop the obedience skills to become adoptable.

“We are a ‘child rescue’ agency first and foremost,” says Katherine Beattie, co-director of K9 Connection, also a project of OPCC.

“We train the teens to train the rescue shelter dogs, and they in turn gain the empathy to give back to the community by giving the teddy bears they create to the sheltered children at Adams House.”

“This program motivates them to commit more to school activities,” says Aimee Tolentino, a seventh-grade counselor. “It creates leadership ability and a sense of pride in themselves and their community.”

The students will graduate from their dog training class at Lincoln Middle School at 4 p.m. Friday, October 6th.

After the K9 Connection teens choose their bears, they take the bears through the “building” process — adding sound, stuffing, stitching, grooming, naming, dressing and giving the bears a customized birth certificate.

Each bear gets a red satin heart. The students hold the heart over their own to make a wish on it before it goes inside the bear.

“My wish is for the child who gets my bear not to be scared,” said Gaby Mercado, age 13.

“My wish is for the child who gets my bear to have a better life,” said Henry Boyd, age 12.

The Build-A-Bear teddy bears will be presented to the Adams House children by their mothers on behalf of the K9 Connection children during the weekly “Mommy and Me” parenting support group.

“A stuffed animal may not seem like much to children who live in the comfort of their own homes, but for those who have had to leave everything behind, it can mean the world,” says Ada Palotai, Sojourn residential program manager.

Adams House is OPCC’s second stage shelter that accommodates battered women and children for three-to-six month periods.

Sojourn provides shelter, support groups, counseling, legal assistance and 24-hour hotline services for more than 3,000 bat- tered women and children each year.

Sojourn and K9 Connection are two of OPCC’s ten projects that provide emergency services, transitional and permanent housing, mental and medical health programs, battered women and children services and preparation for independent and self-sufficient living to homeless and low-income men, women and children.

Information, or (310) 264-6646.