This week a group of teachers in East Tennessee pulled together in an effort to make things a little more bearable for the survivors of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
"We wondered with us being in Tennessee, how we could reach out and help those victims and those families. For a child, a teddy bear is safe and secure," said Kristi Snyder, a third grade teacher at Alcoa Elementary School. "After the shooting, we all wanted to give those kids a hug. If we can't do that, a teddy bear is the next best thing."
The Alcoa Elementary School teachers started their teddy bear drive earlier this week and have already collected 500 of the stuffed animals. Their goal is to collect 650 teddy bears.
"We picked 650 because that is about how many students attend the school. What we would like to do is be able to have one bear for each student when they go back to school," said Snyder.
This week the collected bears have come from local school children as well as donors from as far away as Florida.
In addition to the 650 bears that will go to the surviving students, some Alcoa Elementary School students also made 26 custom teddy bears in honor of each student and teacher killed at Sandy Hook.
"The First United Methodist Church donated money to let the kids go to Build-A-Bear and make the bears for each of the victims' families. The kids chose a victim they wanted to honor and learned something about that person. Then they designed the bears with things that the victim enjoyed. There was one teacher who died who liked the snow so the kids made a bear covered in snowflakes," said Snyder.
Olivia Piercy, a third grade student at Alcoa Elementary, chose to build a teddy bear in honor of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung.
"I wanted to choose the principal because I like teachers and I want to be a teacher when I grow up," said Piercy. "I picked out a bear that is the 'school cool' bear with glasses."
Five-year-old McKenna Cameron clutched a camouflage teddy bear she made in honor of a student killed at Sandy Hook.
"This bear is for Chase Kowalski," said Cameron. "The reason I picked him is because he was in the Boy Scouts."
The custom bears also include an audio recording of the child saying the victim's name and "someone in Tennessee loves you."
On Sunday volunteers will meet at the First United Methodist Church to tie orange and white ribbons on the hundreds of bears intended for survivors.
The teddy bear drive runs through this Wednesday. Teddy bears may be dropped off at the First United Methodist Church in Alcoa.