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State Honoree

Photo of State Honoree Conner Hagins

Conner Hagins

Pennsylvania

Conner Hagins, 18, of Johnstown, Pa., a senior at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, created his own charity in 2006 that collects stuffed animals and other toys for sick children and kids in need, and raises money for a variety of children's causes. When Conner's father was given a stuffed bear in the hospital to help him cough after undergoing heart surgery, Conner asked if the kids in the hospital got stuffed bears. Upon hearing that they didn't, Conner vowed "to make the hospital stays of children a little brighter by providing them with a stuffed toy to cuddle while they are alone or scared."

He began gathering stuffed animals and other toys through annual toy drives and events such as "Dress Down Days" at area schools and a "teddy-bear toss" at Johnstown Tomahawks hockey games. He also recruited friends and classmates to help and asked local businesses to host drop-off bins. Over the past nine years, Conner's "Cuddles for Kids" charity has delivered more than 85,000 toys, not only to kids in the hospital, but also to orphanages, child service agencies and organizations in third-world countries. In addition, Conner has collected school supplies and hygiene items for at-risk youth, and donated more than $5,000 to provide after-school meals to kids in need, support pediatric cancer research, and assist other initiatives that benefit children.