Big Animals

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How it All Began

In 1998, I was invited to dress in a fur costume to entertain the children at the Celebration of Champions, an event for kids battling Cancer sponsored by Rady Childrens Hospital. I was the "love bear", a brown bear with a big red heart on its chest. I had the most profoundly inspiring day. You cannot imagine the feeling when a small child sees you! I was standing about 30 feet behind a small family, when the youngest boy, about 3 or 4 years old, turned around and spotted me. His eyes lit up and a giant smile came across his face. He yelped, dropped his father's hand and began running toward me at full gallop. I braced myself as he threw himself into my arms, giggling and grinning. The rest of his group followed, and soon I was covered with kids. It was an awesome experience!

At the same event, a teenager came over to me for a hug, and started weeping softly. I let her cry for awhile, and then asked why she was crying. She said she was crying for her brother. "Is he here, I asked?" "No, he died last year. But every year we came to this celebration with him, and this time we came to honor his memory". With that, we both started bawling, she for her lost brother, me for the generosity of her spirit. I was deeply touched.

After the event, I was sitting with the other animals, Steve and Pete, recovering from the heat (It is HOT in those costumes!) and someone said, "Wouldn't it be great if we owned these costumes, so we could do this more than once a year?" Wouldn't it, indeed. A dream was born!

Over the next year I often thought about that day. Here was an opportunity to do something that not only benefits the children, but deeply touches and moves the volunteers. Kids are entertained and loved, and volunteers are touched and inspired.

I began asking friends if they wanted to be a part of it. I got all yesses! Gail made phone calls, Carol donated a costume, and Jerry created a website for us. Pete and Steve each purchased their own costume. Sharon took photographs. We began doing events in July 2000. The Joan Kroc Village for Homeless Families, the Polinsky Center, and the ChildHelp facility for abused children were our first.

In 2000, Father Joe invited the Big Animals to entertain his homeless children on Christmas Eve. Foster teens from the San Pasqual Academy wore the Big Animals costumes for the first time that night. So began a relationship with these foster teens that continues to this day. It is especially poignant since these teens lives have often not involved a lot of love or trust. By entertaining the little children, they are learning the awesome power of giving of oneself and enhancing their self-esteem. This is perhaps the most important educational lesson of all!

Since 2000, our 40-50 yearly events bring joy to approximately 4,000 children annually! In 2009, Big Animals for Little Kids became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Now in 2010, we have expanded completely out of our donated space (Thanks a million for your generosity and patience, SB!) and we are seeking expanded quarters.

We are a resource for volunteers and children. We supply our volunteers with costumes and supplies. They supply the love. The kids win, the volunteers win, it's a beautiful thing!

Frank Fernicola, Founder
Big Animals For Little Kids

You can make a difference by adopting a Big Animal!

Michele Campbell Memorial Fund

Big Animals for Little Kids | 4629 Cass Street #342 | San Diego, California 92109 | (619) 723-3142
A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. EIN #26-3490647