TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) -- First-grade students took notice as soon as Troy Fears, executive director of the United Way of the Wabash Valley, entered a classroom Friday morning at Davis Park Elementary.
After all, he was carrying a stuffed bear.
And other members of the United Way held stuff animals, too.
"I want the bear," one student said.
Then a chorus broke out.
"The dolphin," another student said, raising her hand.
"I want the lion," another said.
"Ooh, I want the rabbit," yet another chimed in.
United Way members distributed the stuffed animals as part of the United Way of the Wabash Valley's Success By 6 Reading Buddies program.
This year, which marks the second year for the program, the United Way added Sullivan County to the program, which now serves Vigo, Clay and Sullivan counties, Fears said.
The United Way collected 2,000 stuffed animals, most of them new but some gently used, for distribution Friday to all first-grade students in the three counties.
The students are to give names to the animals, then read to them daily until the end of this school year.
The students then take the animals home and read to them over the summer.
Vigo County had about 1,200 stuffed animals distributed Friday.