Gemma Weir launched a non-profit when she was just nine years old.
Yes, you read that correctly: nine years old.
“Community service has always been a big part of my life,” Gemma says. “I was taught to put others first.”
She started Fluffy Love, an organization that collects and donates new stuffed animals to children who could use a cuddly companion.
Most of the toys are donated to a children’s hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.
Gemma also donates stuffed buddies to tornado victims and local shelters.
To date, Gemma has collected and donated more than 3,000 stuffed animals.
A Small Start
Fluffy Love began a long way from those 3,000 stuffed animals.
“At first, we got the word out through church groups,” says Gemma.
Soon the stuffed animals came pouring in – and not just from her community in Grand Prairie, Texas.
A Facebook page helped spread the word.
“That got an incredible response,” says Gemma’s mom, Heather. “We also received hundreds of toys from friends and family in Scotland!”
A Big Impact
Gemma says it’s been amazing to watch Fluffy Love spread joy in her community.
Recently, a little boy came up to Gemma at church. He was holding a stuffed animal in his arms.
“He told me that he had broken his arm and wound up in the hospital,” Gemma says.
“A nurse gave him the stuffed animal. He said it brought him so much comfort as he went through something scary,” she says.
The toy had been donated by Fluffy Love.
Learning Along the Way
Gemma is now enrolled at Texas Connections Academy, a virtual public school that gives her the flexibility she needs to pursue her work with Fluffy Love.
“I can get ahead on schoolwork a few days a week, then focus on Fluffy Love,” she says. “I’ve really learned the importance of time management!”
Fluffy Love’s success has also helped Gemma learn valuable skills like public speaking.
Two schools recently invited Gemma to speak to students about her project.
“I was nervous, but it was amazing experience,” Gemma says. “The students at both schools were super receptive.”
One school was so inspired by Gemma’s story that students decided to have a toy drive for Fluffy Love.
Encouraging Kids to Dream Big
Watching Gemma find her passion has been one of Heather Weir’s greatest joys as a parent.
“Gemma was very shy and quiet growing up,” Heather says. “It’s been incredible to watch her grow with Fluffy Love.”
When it comes to supporting their kids, Heather has one simple but powerful piece of advice for parents: encourage ideas.
“Parents should always get behind their kids,” Heather says. “It can help them find what they love and flourish.”
Gemma is now in ninth grade – and Fluffy Love has grown alongside her.
Last year, the organization officially became a 501(C)(3)-certified non-profit.
As she looks toward the future, Gemma sees plenty more opportunities for Fluffy Love to inspire positive action.
The mayor of Grand Prairie, Texas proclaimed December 12th as Gemma Weir Day in recognition of her service to the community.
“I hope it’s a day that inspires everyone to follow their passions and think about how to make a positive difference in other people’s lives,” Gemma says.