Every year, 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness in the U.S. and 39% of them are children. Local residents Macy Meyer, Andy Meyer and Jamie Maier decided to have a positive impact on the lives of homeless kids by making custom stuffed creations that offer comfort to children in transition. Cincinnati Parent spoke with Macy about their organization, Sidekicks Made, and the impact their work has on kids in need.
What inspired you to start Sidekicks Made?
Jamie and I got started as our senior capstone at University of Cincinnati. We wanted to find something we were passionate about and narrowed it down to homelessness. We decided to interview anyone and everyone in Cincinnati that has anything to do with homelessness and the idea spurred out of one of our first interviews with a family shelter.
Jamie and I both have little stuffed animals that we have had since we were kids and we have stayed attached to them. We shamelessly sleep with them even though we are now 23 and 24 years old. I asked the shelter, do these kids have something like that? Do they have something that they can transition from place to place with, that has value to them, rather than leaving and having to attach to something new?
We realized that transitional objects are very important in the development of kids, so we dove into the idea of letting kids design their own stuffed animal.
How does your process work?
We go into a shelter, talk with the kids and explain that they are going to be the superheroes for the day and we will be their sidekick. We read them a book we wrote that explains the relationship that the child can have with their stuffed creation – we call them doodlies. The kids then go and draw whatever they would like their doodlie to look like using the stencils we created. We have a set number of pattern pieces and 13 colors for kids to choose from. After they do the drawing we have a one-on-one conversation about what they want their doodlie to look like. One of our biggest focuses is that we both understand what the child is going to get in return. We want them to know we are going to return what we said we would return. That’s not always something they can trust in terms of adults in their lives.
When we do return we bring a waterproof drawstring backpack for them to keep their doodlie in. There’s a box of crayons in there and a note from Sidekicks Headquarters explaining that the doodlie is theirs forever, it will play on their team, be their friend and go on adventures with them. That’s the final package the child receives.
Who makes the doodlies?
We have volunteers hand cut the fabric in every color. Right now we have our volunteers sewing together each of the body parts so we can have them in stock. The hand sewing part to construct the animal is in my hands right now. We don’t have a production team yet.
How can the community get involved?
We have a volunteer sign-up section on our website. We are going to run workshops to teach people how to sew. If you don’t know how to sew you can cut.
Why is what you do so valuable?
I think I can speak for my husband Andy, and Jamie in saying that we know the comfort and stability that we have when we are holding our childhood pillow pets. For me to think that a child doesn’t have that is heartbreaking. Why would I want a child to go without that if it’s been so important in my life?
Want to learn more about Sidekicks Made? Visit their website at www.sidekicksmade.org.