Donors flock to aid boy selling stuffed animal for food

Associated Press

Franklin, Ohio — People across the country want to help a 7-year-old southwest Ohio boy who police say was trying to sell a stuffed animal to buy food.

Individuals and businesses from numerous states around the country have been asking how they can help, a spokesman for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Franklin said Monday.

“I’ve had calls from Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina and Texas and many other states,” St. Vincent de Paul spokesman Rocky Adams said, adding that they already have received several hundred dollars to help the boy and his brothers.

Franklin police say Officer Steve Dunham found the boy in front of a drug store this month with the large stuffed animal and wearing no shoes. He told the officer he hadn’t eaten for days.

“It broke my heart,” Dunham told WLWT-TV. Dunham didn’t immediately return a message seeking additional comment.

Dunham took the child to a restaurant to eat. Police say other officers went to the boy’s home, where they found four older boys living amid garbage and cat urine.

Children services authorities have placed the children with other relatives. Their parents pleaded not guilty to child endangerment charges and are scheduled for a pretrial hearing next month in Franklin Municipal Court.

The police report said that the other children woke the parents up when officers arrived, and the parents indicated that they didn’t realize the 7-year-old wasn’t home.

The parents created “a substantial risk of health and safety,” by neglecting cleanliness and having large amounts of bugs and spoiled food throughout the residence, among other things, the report stated.

Police Chief Russ Whitman said Monday that the actions of his officers weren’t unique.

“Situations like this happen all across the nation every day where law enforcement goes above and beyond to help people in need,” Whitman said. “It’s just part of what we do.”