After suffering a stroke in-utero, Elijah Rutherford wanted to raise awareness for a condition he felt was overlooked.
The now nine-year old constantly spotted pink and yellow ribbons representing support for cancer, but hardly ever a shade of purple. While at a bakery in his Missouri hometown, Rutherford requested the baker make purple ribbon cookies just for him.
According to Rutherford's mother, Jennifer, her son's passion and caring nature eventually brought Traveling Awareness Bears, Inc., a non-profit organization based in O’Fallon, Mo. that sends bears around the world to children facing various diseases.
"We started with the idea of sending a bear to children who've had strokes," explained Rutherford, who will return to her hometown of Wantagh this Saturday to host a fundraiser at . "Our first bear was sent out in November 2010."
"We put a brace and an awareness t-shirt on him and posted a background story on Facebook," she added. "People started requesting visits from him around the world. We started a second bear and decided to expand. Now we have about 60 bears traveling around with two bears for every diagnosis."
Rutherford said she truly admires her son's determination to help others, especially at such a young age.
"He's always been very thoughtful of others," Rutherford said. "He started so young with his own therapy and going to school with similar children, that it's always been second nature to him. Awareness became an obsession to him. He wanted children to relate to the bear who visits, so they know they're not alone."
The organization is set to host a fundraiser this Saturday at Temple B'nai Torah on 2900 Jerusalem Ave., Wantagh starting at 7 p.m. Admission is $20.
"I'm hoping that even a small amount could be raised," Rutherford said. "A lot of this costs us money and we're adding new bears all the time. A small amount could help us for an entire year."