Everybody needs a friend. Someone who will just listen, hug you when you need it, and stare at you lovingly with glassy black eyes. There is a special place in everyone’s heart for inanimate friends. Those stuffed buddies that you rested your head on after a trying day. The fuzzy chums that let you cry into their fur when you need to vent. The fluffy comforters that in the case of our founder, provided companionship for a scared 3 year old with a broken neck so many years ago. It is this reverence for our silent that brought us to the door of one of our new favorite programs and potential collaborators, The Stuffed Animal Rescue Foundation, or SARF.
The principle of SARF is straightforward. They rescue forgotten or damaged stuffed animals, tend to their wounds, and find them a safe and loving home. But through their vision and passion they have become so much more than just a repair shop, they have become an integral part of the community.
We recently chatted with Wendy Mitchell, the founder of SARF to find out her inspirations, motivations, and goals for her non-profit.
In 2008 Wendy moved to the famous 37th street, where neighbors join together to put on some of the city’s biggest and most unique Christmas displays. Utilizing the overabundance of lovingly repaired friends in her possession, Wendy created the first stuffed animal petting zoo. The tiny scenes with miniature bales of hay fake snow and water were a great hit with the kids and adults alike but as the season drew to a close she realized she had to do something with all those friendly faces.
Wendy explained, “I didn’t just want to take the stuffed animals to a thrift store when it was over. They had personalities and props. So I decided I would let people apply to adopt them.” Inspired by the typical pet adoption websites, she created profiles and personalities for each member of her menagerie and the SARF website was born. “It just sort of snowballed from there."
SARF is still going strong. The website is filled with pictures of the happy stitched smiles of successful adoptions. This rate of adoption is a testament to the power of imagination and good humor.
“Think of a stuffed animal on a thrift store shelf. It just sits there for months, and hundreds of people walk by it without anyone even batting an eye. But if you give that object a name and a story and a history, it becomes something different. It becomes a commodity. It has an identity, and it has value again. Then those same people who walked by it before are now applying to adopt it.”
SARF strives to be a force for good. Adoptions are free of charge and the process itself adds to the wonder of making connections between the animals and their adoptive homes.
“There’s something innately magical (and maybe annoying) about waiting and mystery. The SARF seems to strike a chord with people who have long attention spans and big imaginations and who are okay with the fact that they’re not quite sure if it’s real or not.”
Wendy hopes to expand the magic into some with more creative and potentially revenue generating aspects so that SARF can provide free adoptions and care for the next 20 years and beyond. She has plans for a kids writing program, books, charitable events, videos series and even an Onion-esque news show in honor of the greatest friend to plastic eyed buddies, Jim Henson.