Late last year, “Buddy the Cuddle Monster” visited Sag Harbor Elementary School to “gobble up” donations of outgrown and gently used coats and jackets during the second annual “Kids Need Warmth” coat drive for The Retreat, who has been providing domestic violence services and education to families on the East End since 1987.
On Friday, January 15th, Nola and Marina Hollyer, the founders of the “Kids Need Warmth” coat drive, presented 200 coats, which were amassed during the drive, to The Retreat at the Sag Harbor Elementary School morning meeting. “We are amazed at the generosity of the Sag Harbor community of students who really understand what it means to give to other children who are less fortunate,” said Loretta K. Davis, Executive Director at The Retreat.
The Hollyer sisters and their mother Diane Ghioto started the coat drive in 2014, and since its inception the event has collected 380 lightly or unused jackets, coats and sweaters that were given to children that utilize the domestic violence services at The Retreat. “‘Buddy the Cuddle Monster’ was entirely Marina and Nola’s idea,” shared Diane. “They envisioned a way to make giving fun for kids and to create an ‘event’ around their coat drive.” Once everyone met Buddy, he became an icon at the school. “What they succeeded in creating was a cult of personality around this character,” she said. “Buddy has become really popular and has legions of fans!” The girls even plan to introduce “the Cuddle Monster” to social media during their next drive. “For his third go-round next year, the girls will give him his own Instagram account,” noted Diane.
“The coat drive for The Retreat has been a real character-building experience for Marina and Nola, as well,” added Diane. “I’ve fostered this along and been so proud of what the girls have done because it has instilled in them the love and importance of giving, but equally important, it has proven to them that they can conceptualize an idea and actually see it through…Priceless.”
For the girls, the event was about making sure everyone was prepared for the upcoming winter season and helping out those in need. “When it gets so cold, I’m glad that there will be coats to keep everyone warm,” said Nola. “I felt so bad to think that somebody might have needed a coat and didn’t have one. It makes me happy to know that I helped.”
Current programs The Retreat offer include a 24-hour domestic violence hotline, individual and group counseling, legal advocacy, emergency residential shelter, programs to engage troubled fathers, and in-school violence prevention education programs, all of which are provided free of charge.
For more information, visit www.theretreatinc.org.