By most accounts, Sage Goodall is a typical 11-year-old boy. He has a ton of energy, a sense of humor and a big personality. But none of that compares to the size of his heart.
As it turns out, it’s a heart measured in stuffed animals — 5,951 stuffed animals to be exact.
The idea started simple enough.
“One day, I was just in my living room minding my own business, watching TV,” Sage said. “CNN came on, and it was saying about all these kids from Ukraine because of all their houses being blown up.”
Touched by what he was seeing on television, that’s when Sage decided he wanted to do something. He and his mother, Rhonda Goodall, decided to launch “Hugs for the Children of Ukraine.” The duo paired up with local businesses for stuffed animal collection drives. Each donated stuffed toy will go to a child impacted by the war.
“They need to feel what the normal kids of the world feel,” Sage said. “When they can hug onto something when they feel sad or scared.”
Sage and his mother stored their first collections in the family living room. The collections were so big that major parts of the room were covered. Those collections alone brought in a couple thousand.
But then the YMCA of Northeast Florida got on board.
Its multiple branches throughout our area became donation sites. Thousands more were brought in, like hugs to children thousands of miles away. Rhonda is still overwhelmed by the response.
“We didn’t know it would be this big,” she said. “The thought of a child, as Sage says, hugging one of these and being able to walk around with it and carry it around with them, they are every bit as special as every other person.”
With this response comes a message from Sage to his fellow children: Every child is special. Never hesitate to show kindness.
“Everyone is the same, they’re just human beings that God created,” Sage said. “They need to realize, ‘Don’t think about yourself, think about others before you.’”
Even though he’s proud of what he and his team collected, Sage says he’s not finished yet. He’s currently setting new goals with plans to continue collecting.