10 Worst Things to Donate After a Disaster


Teddy Bears

teddy bears, superstorm sandy
A line of teddy bears and flowers is left at a memorial down the street from Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. in memory of those killed at the school. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

There are some very generous and effective charities that collect new and used stuffed animals to give to children of troops deploying to war, hospitalized kids and children who have survived natural or man-made disasters. The unfortunate side effect of their good work is that many people instinctively feel that a gift of a teddy bear is the best way to provide comfort and healing to a community torn apart by tragedy.

Witness the small community of Newtown, Conn., the site of the horrific 2012 school shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults. According to reports in the local newspaper, Newtown was flooded with tens of thousands of teddy bears. A 20,000-square-foot (1,858-square-meter) warehouse was rented to store the barrage of stuffed toys; two weeks after the shooting, it was almost full [source: Brown]. At a candlelight vigil soon after the tragedy, attendees were far outnumbered by teddy bears, thanks to a shipment of 7,000 from Arkansas [source: Kessler].

Matt Cole, one of the organizers of the vigil, encouraged people to give money instead to the United Way. "A teddy bear is wonderful, but a teddy bear can't pay for counseling," said Cole. "A teddy bear can't pay for a funeral."