CHILLICOTHE, Ill. (WMBD) — A local nonprofit dedicated to providing comfort to kids in need is hosting its annual stuffed animal drive for kids at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

Cuddles with Kindness was founded 13 years ago by Taylor Larson after she spent two weeks at the same hospital and received a teddy bear on Valentine’s Day. The organization was previously called Cuddles for Kids.

“It’s a way for us to be able to expand in the future, but we also think it encompasses our mission of spreading kindness and getting the younger generation involved in giving back and supporting the community,” said Larson about the name change.

The Valentine’s Day Teddy Bear Drive is their largest fundraiser. Working with local groups, Larson said they collected 3-4,000 stuffed animals in past years.

“We’re able to work the child life specialist at OSF, so they are able to use the stuffed animals for therapeutic and medical play, which is huge for the kids because it allows them to learn how to cope with what’s going on, but also understand what things they are going through,” she said.

Her goal is for every child who goes to OSF to receive one, adding the community steps up year after year.

“Many of the communities in central Illinois are so giving, so I’m always blown away by the amount of support that we receive and the amount we are able to give to OSF and help those kids get through what for many of them, is a difficult time in their life,” she said.

Better Banks is sponsoring the drive. All eight branches are serving as drop-off locations.

“It means a lot to know that businesses and people in our community believe in what we do, and are willing to help in their community, especially through the pandemic,” she said.

There are more than 50 drop-off locations in addition to Better Banks. Paypal donations are also accepted. The stuffed animals, new with tags only, will be accepted through Feb. 4.

They will be distributed to the kids on Valentine’s Day.