Adam Giles learned the value of acts of kindness through the gift of a teddy bear.
It had been a rough several months for the 21-year-old autistic man, who moved to the area from Arizona with his mother in October.
Participation in the Autism Walk in April, which coincided with a visit from his aunt Suzy McLaughlin, offered a bright spot.
Unfortunately Giles, who suffers from numerous medical conditions, fell ill the evening after the walk.
On her way out of town, McLaughlin gave her nephew her teddy bear to cheer him up, help him feel better.
And it gave him an idea.
“He just flew up out of the chair one day,” said his father, Terry Koehl. Giles would organize a teddy bear drive for the benefit of kids who could use a boost.
“I wanted to share that feeling,” Giles said, and “Teddies Who Care” was born.
He made some posters and started collecting stuffed bear donations from the community, placing drop off boxes at home, T & J convenience store on Old Highway 601, and at their church, Refuge ministries.
Gods Helping Hands Ministry of Mount Airy also assisted the effort, said Betty Giles, Adam’s mother.
Giles also built a website, teddieswhocare.simplesite.com, and came up with a slogan: “We can make things right with a bear hug tonight.”
In addition to explaining the project and providing contact and drop-off information, the website introduces the “Teddies Who Care” mascots.
Captain Bearica and Bamo are superhero-themed Build-A-Bears from Giles’s personal collection.
Captain Bearica’s shield protects against “bad dreams and bad thoughts,” he said.
Over the past few months Giles collected nearly 200 teddy bears.
On Tuesday, he delivered 100 of them to the Shepherd’s House homeless shelter in Mount Airy.
“It is so awesome,” said Mary Boyles, director of the shelter.
“I’m just thinking, what a great ministry from a man who has his own life challenges,” she said.
Each of the 15 children currently residing at the shelter received bears of their own, with plenty more to spread around.
“The kids just loved him, and he just loved the kids,” Boyles said. “I think the kids see hope because they see people care. They see somebody like them that’s helping them, it inspires hope more than we possibly could.”
Boyles said the children will distribute the extra bears to those in the community in need, creating a ripple effect of giving triggered by Giles’s gesture.
On Wednesday, he delivered another bounty of bears to the Children’s Center in Dobson.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Robin Testerman, director. “I think it’s really unique for someone who is only 21 years old to give back to the community like that. We can always focus on certain things about ourselves, but he’s focusing on other kids.”
Testerman said the bears will go to children currently living in the shelter as well as those involved in the center’s programs.
“Well over 80 kids will receive teddy bears,” she said, adding that the center services primarily children who have been abused or neglected, “so to have something as comforting as a teddy bear means a lot to our kids.”
Giles’s parents said the project has been good for helping their son come out of his shell.
“We’re both very proud of his efforts, we’re just a proud mom and dad,” Betty Giles said.
The best part about delivering bears to the children was “seeing them smile,” Adam Giles said. “It was a really good feeling to give, heartwarming to see the way they appreciated it,” he said. “It felt kind of indescribable.”
A “Teddies Who Care” drive aimed at a Christmas delivery is underway.
For more information or to donate a teddy bear, visit teddieswhocare.simplesite.com.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.