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Why Brenau students donated over 500 stuffed animals to a child advocacy center
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Edmondson Telford Child Advocacy Center's Sandra Reed, right, and Marjorie Cunningham, go through bags of stuffed animals Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, donated to the Center by the Brenau University undergraduate psychology club. The bags contain 500 stuffed animals that the Center gives to children before or after every forensic interview. - photo by Scott Rogers

Oftentimes a stuffed animal can become a source of comfort for children who have experienced abuse. 

Brenau University’s undergraduate psychology club, PsyClub, decided to help the kids who come to the Edmondson-Telford Child Advocacy Center in Gainesville by dropping off over 500 stuffed animals. 

Jessica Brannam, the club’s president, visited the center on Tuesday, Dec. 10, to hand over the stuffed animals and give a monetary donation, which was raised by selling small bags of candy around Halloween at Brenau.

Heather Hayes, the center’s executive director, said she’s excited to have support from the community and considers PsyClub “a special group of students.”

The center is usually the first stop for kids who have been suspected of suffering abuse. Hayes said last year the organization saw around 400 kids from Hall County.

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Jessica Brannam, president of Brenau University's undergraduate psychology club, dropped off over 500 stuffed animals for the Edmondson-Telford Child Advocacy Center in Gainesville on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019.

When a child is presented with a stuffed animal, she said it can better their experience at the center. 

“Those stuffed animals can be given right away to comfort them and reduce the trauma from being interviewed and the medical exam,” Hayes said. “In addition to that, when they leave here, a lot of times they’re going to a foster home or another family member’s home. It gives them something to have as their own.”

Brannam, a senior psychology major, works at the center as a victim advocate. 

Most of her time is spent with children before and after their forensic interview, which involves a structured conversation about the child’s experience. Brannam said the center makes sure to give each child a stuffed animal before they leave.

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The Brenau University undergraduate psychology club has collected over 500 stuffed animals for donation to the the Edmondson-Telford Child Advocacy Center in Gainesville. The Center gives a stuffed animal to children before or after every forensic interview. - photo by Scott Rogers

“It’s a way for them to remember the time they had there, but also have something tangible that they can take home with them,” Brannam said. “Some of the children are really underprivileged and may not have toys.”

When she became president of PsyClub, Brannam knew she wanted to find another way to support the organization.

The club rounded up help from different departments and sororities at Brenau, turning the stuffed animal drive into a competition. Brannam said the school-wide participation exceeded her expectations and the donation couldn’t have been possible without the help of Cheyenne Slate, the club’s vice president, and Perry Daughtry, Brenau psychology professor and club advisor.

“I hope to continue it in the future,” she said. “I’m so excited about the progress.”