Counseling students collecting ‘Bunnies for Children’

Published 3:58 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chi Sigma Iota Counseling Honor Society and the Family Consumer Sciences Department at the University of Montevallo are sponsoring Bunnies for Children, a stuffed animal fundraiser for Hill Crest Behavioral Health Services’ children’s inpatient psychiatric unit in Birmingham.

Dr. Mary L. Bartlett, the university’s community counseling track coordinator and Chi Sigma Iota advisor, said Bunnies for Children collected 200 stuffed animals last year – the fundraiser’s first year. She hopes to collect 500 stuffed animals this year.

Bartlett started Bunnies for Children after completing site visits with her practicum intern students. Bartlett said child patients are often overshadowed by adults, and she wanted to do something tangible to support the unit.

“The little children were all laying in their single beds with the doors open and my heart just broke. They just seemed so lonely,” Bartlett said. “I wanted to give them something to hold. I thought, ‘What if they had a little bunny rabbit or a little stuffed toy to play with?’”

Bartlett presented her idea to Hillcrest’s staff, and to her relief, the staff greenlighted the project.

“It was a transforming experience, and (Hill Crest) asked if we would do this again,” Bartlett said. “This project is blossoming into something bigger than we expected.”

Bartlett added Bunnies for Children does more than expose students to behavioral counseling. She said the project also pushes students, alumni and the surrounding community to be more civic-minded and proactive.

“This project brings awareness to our counseling students. They link arms with an organization like Hill Crest and have this phenomenal experience with our profession, but it also gives them a sense of community and giving back because our group emphasizes advocacy and community service,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett and her students will accept donations at Wills Hall and Bloch Hall until April 3. The stuffed animals will be delivered to Hill Crest on April 4. Hill Crest has placed some restrictions on donations. The plush toys must be new, and have no glued-on eyes or noses. In addition, the toys must be stuffed with fiber instead of beans, pellets, wires or any other hard substance. Bartlett said such toys can be found at Dollar Tree and Wal-mart.

If Bunnies for Children meets its goal, every child that comes through Hill Crest this year will receive a stuffed animal. Bartlett said she’s more than willing to pick up contributions if donors are unable to travel to Montevallo.

For more information, contact Bartlett at 665-6377 or e-mail