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Gobbling up worries

Becky Vargo • Jan 2, 2018 at 10:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — A local girl who discovered a way to put some of her worries to rest wants to spread that sense of peace to other children dealing with issues that are bothering them.

That’s why 7-year-old Brinna VanOeveren asked her father’s girlfriend to help her start a fundraising effort, so that more children seeking help at the Child Abuse Counsel (CAC) can have a Worry Eater.

"I want to do it to help other kids,” the Grand Haven Township girl said. “I'm lucky — I live with my dad. Other kids might live with a family they don't even know yet."

The subject came up after a recent counseling session.

Ashley Curtiss said she was giving Brinna a ride home from a counseling session when the young girl mentioned how lucky she is to have a counselor she loves.

Curtis is the longtime girlfriend of Brinna’s father, Devin Reavis.

She also realized that a lot of the kids that go counseling are dealing with similar situations, Curtiss said.

“We talked about what we could do to help those other children with the worry and anxiety that they each face and that they might not have the support system surrounding them like she does.”

Brinna’s aunt bought the child a Worry Eater last year, and “it helped her voice issues that she didn’t want to talk about,” Curtiss said.

A Worry Eater is a stuffed toy with a zippered mouth. You can write down your worries, unzip its mouth, place your worries inside and zip it closed for the Worry Eater to “eat” the children’s concerns.

Curtiss started a GoFundMe page for the project (www.gofundme.com/help-brinna-put-worries-to-rest). The fund was over $600 as of last week. 

Once it reached $300, Curtiss was contacted by the manufacturer of the Worry Eater with a suggestion that she could buy the toys in bulk. Curtiss noted that the company official is checking to see whether or not some matching funds could be made available to help with the purchases or shipping.

“Please extend our thanks to Brinna, for being so caring to think of others and taking action to do something about it, even while she is working through her own issues,” wrote Erin Gagne, sales and marketing coordinator for The Haywire Group, which makes the Worry Eater.

Brinna was placed into her father’s custody following court proceedings a few years ago. Last fall, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services began to investigate allegations that Brinna's biological mother had severely mistreated her. Hearings for an alleged abuse case against the girl’s biological mother on those allegations are pending in Muskegon County.

“Throughout all of this, Brinna needed an outlet to voice her worries, anxieties and concerns,” Curtiss said.

“During an investigation, it is frowned upon to speak to the child about what’s going on in the investigation,” Curtiss said. “The Worry Eater was her source of comfort when she didn’t know if she would get thrown back into an abusive household.

“Brin started trauma therapy at the CAC of Muskegon,” Curtiss said. “Her last visit they gave her Christmas gifts, and that sparked a conversation between Brinna and I on our way home.”

Brinna’s goal is to raise $1,500 to purchase the Worry Eaters.

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