Lt. Col. Russell Long
with the 900 toys the Stansbury Park Elementary Students donated to the
Students from a Utah elementary school gave away their favorite stuffed
animals so that kids in Iraq could enjoy them. For many of the kids in Iraq
these stuffed animals will be their only toys.
students at Stansbury Park Elementary brought 900 stuffed animals to an assembly
on Mar. 18, 2004. The guest speaker at the assembly was Chief Warrant Officer
Paul Holton, aka Chief Wiggles. Holton received the toys for Operation Give, an
organization set up to get toys to Iraqi children. Holton then gave the students
a presentation on Iraq and what his unit, the 141st Military
Intelligence Battalion, did while serving a year in Iraq.
and teachers found out about Chief Wiggles through his website,
They followed his escapades and adventures by reading his weekly updates in
greeted by a gym filled with 800 joyful elementary school kids. The kids were
all waiting to finally meet Chief Wiggles. On the stage the 900 toys were lined
up, each one labeled with the name of the student that donated the toy to
Operation Give. "It was a sight to behold," said Holton about the many stuffed
animals. "I paused while I tried to capture the full essence of what this
experience really meant to me. I had to fight back the tears as I relished in
Holton thanked the students
and faculty for giving him the opportunity to share his experiences with them.
He also thanked them for their generosity.
totally flabbergasted by their show of concern for me and the children of Iraq.
There were handwritten signs all around the school welcoming Chief Wiggles,"
said Holton. "I am still extremely humbled by the expression of love and concern
for me and my fellow soldiers by these students, teachers and parents."
Army Photo by Sgt. Scott Faddis
Mrs. Aimee D'Avignon and her 2nd-grade class performing sign
language to the Toby Keith song, "An American Soldier."
After the performance, Chief Wiggles started his presentation
saying, "I'm proud to be an American soldier."
Holton recounted to the audience how Operation Give was started in Iraq.
"I saw a young Iraq girl about ten years old. Her hair was dirty and
matted. She looked like she had not bathed in a month and she had no
shoes," said Holton. "I told people there not to let her leave while I
ran back to my office and grabbed a stuffed animal and shoes that people
had sent me."
seeing that little girls face light up, Holton found a new purpose for
being in Iraq. "I realized that this was a way that I could reach out to
the people of Iraq and touch their hearts," said Holton.
gave the children a show-and-tell of things that happened in Iraq. He showed
them a few of the gifts that he received from families in Iraq that were
thankful for the toys he helped them receive. One of his gifts was a sword from
a doctor who is currently running to become president of Iraq.
show-and-tell portion of his presentation, Holton ran a slideshow. The show had
pictures of Iraqi children receiving gifts similar to the ones the Utah children
Most of the children gave one of their favorite stuffed animals.
Many of them gave more than one toy. Echo Payne, a 3rd-grader, gave two
stuffed dogs. She said, "I hope that they will be happy and enjoy the
"It is difficult for the younger children to imagine a life
without toys," said Mindy Barnes, the Parent Teacher Association
president and mom of Emily, 8, and Hana, 6. Each of her daughters
brought one of their favorite stuffed animals, and then they bought a
second one with their own money. "Emily wanted to give the best toy she
had, and made sure that the money she bought the second toy with was her
own," said Barnes.
"All of this had been initiated by a handful of motivated, caring
parents and teachers to help the children focus on more than the body
count of the nightly news," said Holton.
wanted the children to feel the joy that comes from serving someone less
fortunate and to feel that they are playing a part in improving the
Iraqi children's quality of life."
US Army photo by Sgt. Scott
put on the tradition Iraqi male clothing
for the children to see.
teachers and children had been following my escapades in Iraq through my weekly
journal entries. They saw the news reports, the photographs of children
receiving a toy or a stuffed animal, and had a strong desire to do something,"
The toys are
not being sent to Iraq alone. Each toy will have a button on it with a picture
of the child that donated that toy. Along with the button will be a message in
Arabic, "From our heart to your heart."