19 days to go: What in the world is a Reed-A-Cheetah?
We have always wanted to give back for all the kindnesses shown to us. Not that we will ever be able to repay all the many blessings bestowed upon us. We can however pay it forward. We attempt to do so with the Reed Stevens Legacy Program at Avera McKennan hospital. 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.
We finally came upon an idea, but we would need some help pulling it off. Thankfully, we have some angels among us in Bruce and Kris Shover and their business Marshall Bowl where they also own a Bear Factory operation. I called them up in late 2009 with a strange request. Did they have any cheetahs we could stuff? Normally, somebody would guffaw, but they didn’t. However at that time, they did have to tell me that no such animal was available, and they promised as the catalogs change, they would keep their eyes open.
In the meantime, we had formulated an idea of what we would put together if we could ever find cheetahs. Why the cheetah? No, it isn’t because Reed-A-Cheetah has a great ring to it – even though it does! It is because cheetahs were Reed’s favorite animal. We even went to opening day of the cheetah exhibit at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls. We made up some professional style baseball cards that have Reed’s picture and read:
Reed Stevens was in 7th grade when he and three friends were killed riding home on their school bus. He was very active in his school, his church, Scouts, and the community. He left behind a family of his dad, his mom, his brother, and two sisters.
Reed’s favorite animal was the cheetah. Just as cheetahs are extremely rare in nature, so are the relationships that brothers and sisters share. Recognizing this fact, the Stevens family wanted to remember Reed and to help surviving siblings at Avera McKennan by giving each child a Reed-A-Cheetah. Whenever you snuggle with your cheetah, you will know that 3 other kids know what it is like to miss that special sibling.
We dreamed and we waited. In late winter 2011, I got a call informing me, indeed, the catalog changed and cheetahs were now available. But before we could go forward, Bruce and Kris invited us to a Bowling Association event. We met the most generous people; all of whom helped us pay for the cheetahs. Then for our initial gift of cheetahs, our family along with Bruce and his assistant, Ethan, travelled with 50 cheetahs, stuffing, and Bear Factory; so that we could make the cheetahs in person with these siblings at annual event in memory of children who have passed away at the hospital. A video of our day is found below.
If our soaring hearts that day were fuel, we all could have flown back to Marshall. It was an incredible day. The need still exists, since a friend and I brought down the last shipment at Christmas time. More are needed. That is one of the reasons why we have invited (and they have graciously accepted), Marshall Bowl to attend Reed’s Run. If you purchase a cheetah that day, your loved takes home a cheetah, but a little piece of that purchase goes to a hurting heart receiving a cheetah someday.
Just like cheetahs are rare, so are the friendships who have made this dream a reality. In my heart, I think that is Chee-rrific!