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Making a Difference: 'Cuddles for Kids' still prospering after a decade

(WJAC Online)

JOHNSTOWN – Conner Hagins sifts through thousands of donated toys.

When he isn’t busy attending class at LaRoche College in Pittsburgh and playing soccer, he’s organizing and making sure each and every toy goes to someone who needs one.

"A little motto we have, it doesn't matter if you're 2 or 92, the littlest things go the longest way," says Hagins, founder of a charity called “Cuddles for Kids.”

For Conner, though, his journey in making people smile didn't start inside of a garage. But rather at a hospital when he was visiting his dad 10 years ago.

"He got a stuffed animal for his condition to hold and while he coughed. At the time being a kid going to my father’s hospital room that is what you saw," says Hagins.

Just like any kid, he was curious.

So after talking to a nurse and finding out they don't provide a toy for every patient, Conner, 9 years old at the time, believed he could change that. And he did by creating Cuddles for Kids.

Right now, thousands of donated toys are housed in a garage at Conner’s parents, but he says he hopes one day all of the toys will be in a much bigger facility.

"It started out being just stuffed animals, coloring books. And crayons. And now it's grown into what do people need. We've done hygiene drives in our area and we're kind of supporting whoever we can however we can."

Conner, who graduated from Bishop McCort Catholic High School, says Cuddles for Kids has donated more than 100,000 toys.

Most have gone to patients at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown and Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

A few months ago, he achieved a goal he never thought was possible.

"Just donated to the Mario Lemeuix Foundation," which was a personal goal of mine. Ever since I was young I wanted to donate to that,” Hagins said.

"You know I’m kinda taking every moment bit by bit. I'm loving every minute of it, I’m loving every second of it, and you know it's fast. I never thought Cuddles for Kids would go 10 years."

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