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June 14, 1999

'Cargo of Comfort' Mission Delivers PJ Huggabee Bears To Refugee Children In Fort Dix, New Jersey

CHICAGO -- First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today delivered 2,000 PJ Huggabee Bears to help comfort the Kosovo refugee children temporarily living at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. Mrs. Ryan was accompanied by representatives of Marshall Field's Department Store and United Parcel Services.

The PJ Huggabee Bear program began under former First Lady Brenda Edgar in partnership with Marshall Fields, who created PJ to provide children in foster care with a sense of security and companionship.

"The children and families of Kosovo left their homeland in such haste, they left many personal items behind," Mrs. Ryan said. "We want to welcome them to our country and give them a little bit of comfort after a long journey," she said.

Mrs. Ryan toured the base at Ft. Dix and met with many of the Kosovo refugee children. She was accompanied by Laysha Ward, Director of Community Relations for Marshall Field's and Arthur Lucien, Public Affairs Manager for the North Central Region of UPS.

Mrs. Ryan thanked Marshall Field's for purchasing the bears and donating them to the children. She also commended UPS for donating the shipping cost of the bears to New Jersey.

Speaker J. Denny Hastert and U.S. Rep. John Shimkus were instrumental in securing U.S. State Department's approval of the mission. "After speaking with base officials, it is evident our efforts with the Kosovars are appreciated. Even though we don't speak the same language, it's obvious that words are not needed when you show you care," Shimkus said.

Since the inception of the PJ Huggabee program, approximately 45,000 bears have been donated to children in the foster care system. For every bear that is sold, Marshall Field's donates one to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for a child entering the foster care system. The bears retail for $20 at Marshall Field's.

According to CNN News reports, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that more than 855,000 people have left Kosovo since air assaults began in March. The US is among nearly 30 countries to welcome evacuated Kosovars to its borders. In June, media reports listed nearly 5,000 refugees in the United States, with government officials offering to relocate a total of 20,000 people.

"Some of the refugees have relatives already living in the United States and will find a place to stay and friendly faces to greet them. But for those who don't, we should open our hearts and show charity to ease them into the challenges they will face in a new land," Mrs. Ryan said. "For those who ultimately find their way to Illinois, I want them to know that they are welcome."


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