EAST LIVERPOOL - Along with a hot meal on Saturday, the children who attended the Good Shepherd community lunch at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church received a stuffed animal through the efforts of an 11-year-old Canfield girl.
Zoie McCartney and her parents, David and Alissa Blevins were at the luncheon Saturday to hand out the toys.
"I started a collection and I believe everyone should have a Teddy bear," Zoie said. "I'm doing this for my friend Olivia. She has cancer."
Zoie McCartney is shown with one of the many Teddy bears and other stuffed animals she has collected and is distributing to children in the tri-state area. Each one carries a yellow ribbon tag that reads “Olivia does not fight alone,” in honor of Zoie’s friend, Olivia Coontz, who has bone cancer. (Photo by Nancy Tullis)
Alissa Blevins said Zoie's friend, Olivia Coontz of Leetonia, has bone cancer. Each of the toys Zoie has collected has an ear tag that reads "Olivia does not fight alone."
Last summer, Olivia fell while roller skating on the Greenway Trail and broke her arm. That led to doctors the diagnosis of bone cancer.
After learning about Olivia's condition from her great-uncle, Clipper assistant coach Larry Baughman, the players formed Team Olivia to show their support. Each player wore a yellow wristbands inscribed Team Olivia and invited Olivia to all their games.
In addition to taking donations of the stuffed toys, Zoie also collected money before Christmas to give to Olivia's family. She collected $100 in donations, and added $80 from her own savings.
Besides the St. Stephen's luncheon, Zoie and her parents have traveled to many places in the area to distribute the stuffed animals. She started with 800 and has about 300 left.
They have dropped off stuffed animals for children through the Lisbon Lion's Club, Christina House and Flemming House in Columbiana County, the Warren Family Mission in Trumbull County, and the Ellsworth Presbyterian Church and the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley (Youngstown) in Mahoning County.