School Kids Give Toys to Iraqi Children


Written by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Published March 18, 2004


Chief Wiggles with the 900 toys the Stansbury Park Elementary Students donated to the Iraqi children.
Photo by Lt. Col. Russell Long

Chief Wiggles with the 900 toys the Stansbury Park Elementary Students donated to the Iraqi children. 

     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.

     Eight hundred 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.

     The students and teachers found out about Chief Wiggles through his website, They followed his escapades and adventures by reading his weekly updates in their classes.

     Holton was 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 the moment."

     Holton thanked the students and faculty for giving him the opportunity to share his experiences with them. He also thanked them for their generosity.

     "I was 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."

Mrs. Aimee D'Avignon and her 2nd-grade class performing sign language to the Toby Keith song, "An American Soldier".
US 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

by 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."

     After seeing that little girl’s 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.

     Holton then 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.

     During the 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 were donating.

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 toys."

     "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.

     "They 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."     

Chief Wiggles put on the tradition Iraqi male clothing for the children to see.
US Army photo by Sgt. Scott Faddis


Chief Wiggles put on the tradition Iraqi male clothing

 for the children to see. 

 "The parents, 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," said Holton.

     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."