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Lifestyle // Good Neighbors
Christina O’Connor

Sylvia “Elsie” Foster

Photo courtesy Sylvia Foster

About 20 years ago, a 5-year-old boy whom Sylvia “Elsie” Foster knew in her Waianae neighborhood was beaten to death by his stepfather.

“It was devastating for all of us,” recalls Foster.

“To be honest, I carried some guilt about it because I didn’t do anything,” she says. “I saw something was wrong, and I didn’t do anything. I think about it every day. Still.”

Shortly after that, Foster, who owns a Waianae-based real estate company, went to Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii (PCAH) and asked if she could do anything to help.

“I figured, I don’t want this child to be gone in vain … I decided that I would try to do something for my community as well,” she says, adding that Waianae has a high rate of child abuse.

Since then, Foster has been an integral part of PCAH, including serving as the co-chairwoman of its annual Teddy Bear Round-Up and Family Resource Fair. Now in its 16th year, this year’s event takes place Saturday (April 27) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Windward Mall Center Court. Everybody is welcome to bring a new or gently used teddy bear or other stuffed animal for donation.

PCAH, the local chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, is a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention of child abuse through education, public-awareness campaigns, advocacy and providing parent support. For National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, PCAH hosts workshops, family activities and other events, including the Teddy Bear Round-Up.

Foster, who has two adult children, has guided the event from its first year, when very few donations were made, to the huge event that it is today. It has been so successful in recent years that PCAH is aiming to set the Guinness World Record this Saturday for the largest gathering of plush toys. The number to beat is 5,657, and Foster is confident that they will achieve it.

The stuffed animals will be distributed throughout the year to homeless shelters, hospitals, domestic violence shelters and more.

“These stuffed animals provide children with happiness and comfort,” Foster states.

According to the state Department of Human Services, nearly 5,000 incidences of child abuse or neglect were reported in the state in 2011.

“The ultimate goal is to try to stop child abuse,” Foster says of her work with PCAH. “And for many parents to see that there are … ways to control your anger, there are ways to stop abuse. When you see something happening to another child, there are ways to stop that.”

The Teddy Bear Round-Up also will feature entertainment, informational booths and keiki activities. For more information about the event and PCAH, go to preventchildabusehawaii.org or call 951-0200.

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