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Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Carson Christensen helps pack boxes full of stuffed animals. Project Teddy Bear brought in 5,186 stuffed animals this year.

AMERICAN FORK — The several thousand donated stuffed animals are actually a sad sight, says Richard Beard, president and CEO of Bank of American Fork.

In a way, each toy represents a child who is abused, neglected or traumatized — and that's who the stuffed animals are for.

"It is sad this many children need help," Beard said.

In its eighth year, Bank of American Fork's 2007 "Project Teddy Bear" brought in 5,186 stuffed animals this year. The goal was 3,000. Last year, the project collected 2,931.

The toys are being sent to the Family Support and Treatment Center of Orem and to the Family Support Center of Midvale and Sugarhouse.

The Orem agency provides prevention and treatment services for children, adults and families dealing with child abuse and neglect. It serves as a shelter for children who have been removed from their parents' custody.

The Midvale/Sugarhouse agency provides child-abuse prevention outreach to schools, day-care centers, churches and civic organizations.

Eleven branches of the Bank of American Fork gathered the toys from customers and employees, as well as outside entities. Southland Elementary School in Riverton donated 75 stuffed animals.

During a ceremony Wednesday at the bank's American Fork branch, Beard thanked those who participated in the project.

All of the stuffed animals came in from the 11 bank branches for the occasion. They sat in piles covering the bank floor and lined the shelves high up on the bank walls.

Some of the stuffed animals will be given to children who arrive at the shelter to keep.

"There will be many little children who will be able to love a bear, love a dog, love a walrus — love all the animals who are here," said Bonnie Peters, executive director of the Family Support Center of Midvale and Sugarhouse.

Some children arrive at the center with nothing — not even shoes, Peters said.

Other stuffed animals will be used in therapy sessions, says Joy O'Banion, director of the Family Support and Treatment Center of Orem.

The stuffed animals recently acted out a court trial, including judge, jury and witnesses, in a therapy session for a 9-year-old girl. She had watched her father kill her mother's boyfriend. She had also seen her father stab her mother with a knife.

After the girl testified, the bear, which played the girl's father, was sent to jail via the stuffed animal court.

After Wednesday's ceremony, bank workers packed the stuffed animals into garbage bags and boxes. Bailey's Moving and Storage donated its services to ship the toys to the two agencies.

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