Reed Stevens was in 7th grade when he and three friends were killed riding home on their school bus. He was very active at school, his church, Scouts and the community. He left behind a family of his dad, mom, a brother and two sisters. This family has established the Reed Stevens Legacy Program at Avera McKennan Hospital. With this program, Kandy and Daniel, Reed's parents, provide a stuffed cheetah to siblings there who have lost a brother or sister.
“We wanted to do something at the hospital where Reed died, but we didn’t know how exactly this was going to work. We had already consulted with the staff, and we knew the need existed for siblings who had lost a brother or sister,” shares Kandy.
Kandy called Bruce and Kris Shover about their Bear Factory operation in late 2009 with a strange request. Did they have any cheetahs to stuff? Shovers did have to explain that no such animal was available, but they promised as catalogs update that they would keep their eyes open. The ideas formulated of what they would do if they could ever find cheetahs. Even though Reed-A-Cheetah has a great ring to it – this program was birthed because cheetahs were Reed’s favorite animal. So much so their family had went to opening day of the cheetah exhibit at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls.
“We'd always wanted to give back for all the kindnesses shown to us,” Kandy says as she further explained the injuries that two additional children had received after the accident. Their son Sawyer had a head wound, his left leg broken, his right hip dislocated, and spleen, lung and sciatic nerve injuries, and a daughter with her right side injured including the joints and ankle. The entire family was able to gather this week at the Ronald McDonald House and bring the Reed-A-Cheetah to life for the families currently staying at the house.Along with the Lakeview Public Schools, the Ronald McDonald House was chosen as a charity to connect with to share a commitment to the good works of the surrounding community. The Lakeview Public Schools donated gift cards to the families currently at the house and Bruce helped the children stuff an animal of their choosing. Kandy explained several of the teachers at the Lakeview Public School had either stayed at a Ronald McDonald House or knew someone who had needed it. Kandy and Daniel would have likely stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near Avera if it had existed during their family's crisis.
|L to R: Bruce, Daniel, Kandy, Sawyer, Erin, Cloie, Rachel|
Kiva, a guest at the Ronald McDonald House, was able to stuff a puppy for her son in utero. She is awaiting his delivery and scheduled surgery for gastroschisis, but was excited for the special time with her family as they waited for his birth and upcoming medical care. Her brother Tristan was thirteen and was convinced to make one as well. Bruce made it a lot of fun for the kids, asking if they would “hug” it to see if it was full enough. Kandy stood by making sure all the kids had a certificate that they could use to remember when they made their stuffed animal and record a name for it. The line was brimming with excitement for their special moment.
“This is something Reed would have been proud of us doing,” explains Kandy. The compassion and generosity in this act of service and joy over what was exchanged is a big something we are all proud of.