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Artists at Lutheran Adoption Services see their drawings come to life as plush toys.



Troy — Some Metro Detroit children in foster care got to see Tuesday what it looks like when their imaginations are turned into plush toy creations.

Amber, 13, said her mermaid looks just like the drawing she made, right down to the triangle-shaped eyes.

"She's even got the upside down heart on her shirt and the bracelets on her wrists," she said.

Amber and two other girls, Brandie, 17, and Sally, 9, received the toys at a small pizza party at the offices of the Lutheran Adoption Service in Troy on Michigan Adoption Day.

Amber said she named her toy "Mermaid" because mermaids are her favorite.

She said she couldn't wait to take her home and cuddle with her when she goes to sleep.

In August, Amber and seven other children were invited to Budsies Art Day, an event where they were given crayons, markers, paper and templates of animals and characters and instructed to let their imaginations run wild.

Not all of the children could attend Tuesday's party, so some have already received their toys. Those who didn't will get them before Christmas, said Lauren Lochner Boon, a recruitment specialist for Lutheran Adoption Service.

Based in Troy, the service specializes in placing into homes children who are in the state's foster care system. The nonprofit is jointly owned by Lutheran Social Services of Michigan and Wellspring Lutheran Services.

About 500 children are in the program, which facilitated 492 adoptions statewide through 10 offices last year.

The children who participated were chosen by a group of recruitment specialists. They looked for kids who were interested in art and have yet to be matched with a family, despite waiting for the past several years. They ranged in age from 7-17, Lochner Boon said.

Their drawings were sent to Budsies, a Lake Worth, Florida, company that makes custom stuffed toys.

Alex Furmansky, founder of Budsies, said his company teamed up with the Lutheran Adoption Service because it wanted to bring the kids some smiles.

"We wanted to be able to give them this cuddly friend they designed themselves and who is with them forever," he said. "Their Budsies become their buddy and a source of happiness, hope and joy throughout their journey."

The company typically charges $69 for each toy, but donated the masterpieces created from the drawings by the children in the adoption program.

It usually takes the company about 3-5 weeks to turn a drawing into a plush toy, Furmansky said.

Furmansky said he hopes the experience of getting a Budsie will encourage the children to continue drawing and expressing themselves through art.

"I also hope they see the people around them want them to be happy and care enough to give them something they can have with them forever," he said.

Jennifer Brooks, a youth specialist for the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange, said giving Budsies to the kids may seem like a simple gesture, but it's not.

"These are kids who don't have anything that's just theirs," she said. "They've pretty much lost everything, moving from house to house. But this gives them something tangible, something that came out of their heads."

Based in Ypsilanti, the exchange is a statewide information and referral service for families interested in adopting and for adoption workers looking for homes for children. It's a program of Judson Center and funded by the Michigan Department of Human Services.

Michigan has about 3,000 foster children waiting to be adopted at any given time, according to the state's Department of Human Services. And an adoptive family has not been found for 300 of those children.

"For a lot of these kids, foster care is a long journey," said Lena Wilson, director of Lutheran Adoption Service. "They lose a lot and there are a lot of bumps in the road.

"Our hope is (the Budsies are) an opportunity to give them at least one thing that they helped create and design to share their journey with them."

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058

Lutheran Adoption Services

Anyone interested in adopting a child should contact Lutheran Adoption Services by logging on to www.lasadoption.org, emailing lloch@LSSM.org or calling (877) 643-1615.

Source: Lutheran Adoption Services

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