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Reed Elementary students assemble, cuddle Build-A-Bear toys

The jubilant sound of children’s laughter could be heard from the library to the front office at Reed Elementary School on a recent Thursday as students eagerly anticipated making Build-A-Bear Workshop stuffed animals.

Through donations from Bob and Lovee Arum to Communities in Schools of Southern Nevada, all the students at Reed received their own bears from Build-A-Bear. The retail chain sells teddy bears and other stuffed animals that customers assemble interactively.

CIS of Southern Nevada coordinated with Phoenix-based Build-A-Bear district manager Julie Hayes, who worked with the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Galleria mall to bring in employees and create a ceremony for students. CIS is a national dropout-prevention organization.

“When I walked in here today, I couldn’t believe it,” said Cheri Ward, executive director for CIS of Southern Nevada. “The school decorated the whole thing to create the whole atmosphere of Christmas. The kids are so excited, even the older ones.”

“Bear Builders” from the Build-A-Bear store visited the school Dec. 13 with partially stuffed bears. During a ceremony, children finished stuffing and dressing the bears, inserting tiny peppermint striped hearts to symbolically fill the bears with love. Build-A-Bear volunteers then finished sewing up the bears for students, who were given birth certificates for their furry friends.

School officials initially weren’t sure all students would be able to receive a bear, said Principal Jennifer Boeddeker. The bears typically sell for $12 to $30, according to a Build-A-Bear representative, and about 760 students attend Reed Elementary.

“We didn’t want to leave any students out,” Boeddeker said, expressing gratitude for the donations.

The school partnered with CIS at the beginning of the school year to generate additional resources for families, according to Boeddeker.

“We put a full-time person in the school to build a relationship with these kids to find out what’s keeping them from being successful,” Ward said, “to ensure that we can bring that to them. This is all part of the experience.”

Ward said the ceremony was part of a continuing effort to keep children motivated and excited about going to school.

“If they can feel so loved and cared for at their school, they’re going to want to be there,” she said.

Contact Mia Sims at msims@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0298. Follow @miasims___ on Twitter.

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