Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2011

CHINA GROVE — The students at China Grove Middle School were recently greeted by an unexpected visitor. Wellobee, mascot of Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast, made a surprise entrance into six classrooms Monday afternoon.
Wellobee gave hugs and high-fives to students as their principal, Dr. James Davis, spoke about a special project to help hospitalized children.
The Pillow Pet project represents a partnership between Rowan-Salisbury Schools and CMC-NorthEast’s Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital.
The China Grove Middle School student leadership group is collecting Pillow Pets to donate to patients at Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital. China Grove Middle School, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, is the first Rowan-Salisbury school ever to host a drive for the hospital. The students have been excited to participate in the project.
“It’s very close to their hearts because it’s about children helping children,” Davis said.
The Pillow Pet project originated in Indianapolis with Jacob McConahay, a 7-year-old boy with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. McConahay wanted to make a difference in the lives of other sick children. He began donating Pillow Pets to provide them comfort during their hospitalization.
Inspired by McConahay, the students of China Grove Middle are bringing the project to Rowan County. The student leadership group chose CMC-NorthEast because they have an entire hospital devoted to children.
The Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital is a 53-bed hospital on the campus of CMC-NorthEast. It provides highly specialized pediatric care, offering a wide range of services spanning from wellness to sub-specialties and intensive care.
Wellobee, along with Davis and staff from CMC-NorthEast’s department of Business and Community Outreach, promoted the project by speaking in classrooms and filming a school newscast.
The students were surprised and thrilled to see Wellobee entering their classrooms. Many jumped out of their seats to hug the mascot.
“The enthusiasm was far more than we anticipated,” said Davis. “There was genuine excitement at seeing this larger-than-life character.”
The students recognized the mascot from the Landis and China Grove parade and the Salisbury parade. Several students said they were happy to learn Wellobee’s name and meet him in person.
Davis, who was the 2011 Wachovia Principal of the Year for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said the Wellobee visit was productive for drumming up donations. By the next day, students had donated an additional 25 Pillow Pets. He said there is still a buzz around campus.
A Pillow Pet costs approximately $20. Donations can also be made to the China Grove Middle School PTA towards purchasing a Pillow Pet. The school’s original goal was 50 Pillow Pets, which they reached within the first week. Currently at 80 Pillow Pets, they are hoping to reach their new goal of 100.