Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA) partnered with Budsies—a company that makes drawings into plush toys–to give families living with HIV a unique experience to draw family mascots that best represent their family goals, values, and attributes then have those drawings come to life.
“Many of the families we work with struggle with communication, self-worth, and self-identity,” said Dara Yah’ya program manager for LSS/NCA’s Youth Haven Camps & Retreats, a program for youth battling HIV/AIDS and its stigma. “We hope the children and their parents walk away having learned how better to listen, effectively communicate their ideas, and see their role in the family.”
Yesterday, families gathered to discuss the symbolism of color, shapes, and textures and how those artistic elements represent their own family. Budsies will bring each family’s artwork to life by hand-making each mascot and turning it into a tangible stuffed toy that can be used to facilitate discussion and serve as a reminder of the family’s unity and future goals.
“Budsies is honored to partner with LSS’s Youth Haven Camps,” said Alex Furmansky, Founder of Budsies. “Children and families impacted by HIV/AIDS deserve a safe, nurturing environment among peers. Each child’s personal Budsie buddy will embody this supportive spirit outside the camp walls and bring comfort to the children for many years to come.”
Every year, LSS/NCA sends more than 70 families to participate in Youth Haven Camps & Retreats free of charge. These retreats provide unique and unmatched experiences for children and families who often have no other resources or support networks. Youth Haven programming offers opportunities to share experiences, find comfort and hope, and grow past the stigma of HIV/AIDS through peer support and professional mentoring.
“Our goal at LSS/NCA is to provide our Youth Haven families and children with experiences and education that support them in healthy relationships, standing against stigma, and building bright futures. Our partnership with Budsies gives our families a reminder that family and open communication strengthens each individual,” said LSS/NCA CEO Melissa Graves.