CLEVELAND– The wagon filled with stuffed animals was bigger than 7-year-old Alex Walker but she was determined to pull it down the hallway of the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital alone.
Walker spent Tuesday visiting children who can’t leave their room inside the pediatric epilepsy monitoring unit. For Walker, this special delivery is personal and part of her project, Alex’s Fluffy Buddies.
“Because they just seemed lonely and sad in there,” she explained next to her wagon.
Walker was diagnosed with epilepsy at 11 months old. Her mother, Melissa, said she spent many days at the hospital for testing and treatment for up to 100 seizures per day.
“I love watching Alex bring happiness to a kid that’s in a situation they don’t want to be in,” Walker said. “They’re not happy, they might be scared like she was.”
Throughout her battle with epilepsy, Alex managed to create Alex’s Fluffy Buddies. It’s a project where she raises money to purchase stuffed animals for children who need comfort. Alex said her teddy bear, Sky Bear, has been by her side as long as she can remember and helped get her through long hospital treatments.
The illness, according to Dr. Ajay Gupta, the head of pediatric epilepsy at the Cleveland Clinic disproportionately impacts children.
“Alex was incredibly lucky,” Dr. Gupta said. “You can see that she’s not only doing great things but helping other children. So I think in that sense, it just gives a message that it’s a condition that once you suspect early, diagnose early, find the right treatment and the right path for that child.”
Alex’s mother said she noticed other children didn’t have a stuffed animal to keep them comfortable in the hospital. Walker said hundreds of donated stuffed animals later, Alex was recently named a GoFundMe Kid Hero.
“A little bit of fresh air, a breath of kindness, a little bit of a distraction makes a world of a difference,” said Leah Foster, the mother of a patient.
Alex raised more than $17,000 online, but started from humble beginnings.
“I was in the hospital and I saw some kids without stuffed animals and I wanted to give some of mine, but my mom said no they need to be new,” Alex said. “So I saved my Chuck E. Cheese money and I buy bears.”
The little girl said she hopes to one day have more than 100,000 bears. Her mother said they are working to make it happen and aim to turn Alex’s Fluffy Buddies into a non-profit.
Walker told FOX 8 she recently lost Sky Bear in Mentor and hopes the stuffed animal that started it all is returned.