SAN DIEGO — In the home of eighth-grader Jason O'Neill, teddy bears are everywhere. They're white, black or brown. Some have bow ties and some have ribbons. They sit on chairs, tables, counter tops and the floor.
Thanks to O'Neill, a young entrepreneur who started his own company at age 9, they're all going to sick children for Christmas.
"At Christmas I wanted to do something special, so I started a fundraiser this year to raise money for buying a bunch of bears," O’Neill said.
All of the bears will be given to children at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.
O'Neill has been giving money to charity since he started Pencil Bugs four years ago. The company's main product is pencils with hand-painted Styrofoam toppers designed to look like bugs. He's sold hundreds of them in the last four years — and he's also expanded his product line. His products now include Pencil Bugs T-shirts and greeting cards, and he's working on a Pencil Bugs board game.
"In the beginning of my business, I knew that I was very fortunate being a kid and being able to do all of this, so I wanted to help other kids in some way," said O’Neill.
'Every little bit helps'
This year, O'Neill decided to donate more than money. He wanted to give less fortunate children something tangible for Christmas. He thought of teddy bears.
He began a fundraising campaign, encouraging children across the country to donate. He's received more than $700 in donations. A group of students from Michigan sent him $119 from a bake sale. Other kids have sent only a few dollars.
"What I always say is that every little bit helps," O'Neill said. "Those kids that just donate five or 10 dollars out of their own money, that helps and that will change somebody's life."
O’Neill and his mom are now busy tying special tags to hundreds of bears, each one thanking children for donating to make the project possible.
O’Neill is still trying to raise money on his Web site to buy more bears before the end of the month, the deadline for holiday donations at the hospital.
"I haven't had any big tragedies in my life, but I know that there are always people more and less fortunate that you, so it's good to help out," O’Neill said.