Beanie Baby Ambassadors
The words “toys” and “military” are rarely used in the same sentence. In the case of the Beanie Baby Ambassador Program (BBA), however, the two terms are intricately linked. The program mediates the process of sending Beanie Babies to U.S. troops abroad, who then distribute them to children in their areas. Although this program is no longer running, as Hess and others involved in BBA decided to close down the organization in September of 2009, the organization made a significant impact while running and will be remembered. According to the program’s website, almost 41,000 Beanie Babies were donated.
What began as a small box Christine Hess sent to the United States troops during Christmastime has come a long way. A resident of Paradise Valley, Arizona, Hess founded BBA as a grassroots effort to connect nations and people. Hess describes the overarching purpose in saying, “The goal of the Beanie Baby Ambassador Program is to help our troops—during war or peace, at present and in the future—to break the ice with native populations across the globe.”
Hess was a young girl in Germany and grew up in the devastating aftermath of World War II. Thinking back on her childhood, Hess recalls that she and her sister did not have many of the comforts that she now has access to, including sweets and other treats. The American troops in her area displayed kindness by handing out candy and chocolate to her and the other children. She fondly recollected, “Big smiles underlined their kindness. We didn’t need language.”
Hess currently is a United States citizen and resident. Based on her positive childhood contact with American soldiers, she believes that it is important for American soldiers to experience kindness and love from both their countrymen and from others abroad. However, she says, it is equally important that the people of all nations encounter the same treatment. It is especially critical for children to grow up experiencing positive relationships with the representatives of other countries, namely soldiers, because they will remember these relationships as adults and pass these memories onto others and to future generations. As Hess points out, a soldier’s duty is not merely to fight; soldiers are “global ambassadors” who have the power to spread goodwill and convey a positive image of their country.
Though sad to end the program, Hess’s message and purpose still ring clear. Her passion for supporting those in uniform continues to be inspiring and her perception of the American people as generous, willing, and caring reminds us to hope. Her confidence in human beings, including those in America and in other countries, reminds us of the goodness that all people are capable of, and work towards.
To learn more about the Beanie Baby Ambassador program, visit the website:
Featured picture was taken from user Jeff Rivers on www.flickr.com, which is permitted according to the Creative Commons liscence. The original picture can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/track27/4310446854/.