Lifestyle Jun 8, 2021 5:41 PM EST

EXCLUSIVE: California toymaker inspired by Pope Francis documentary filmmaker to deliver stuffed animals to migrant children

A toy manufacturer was inspired by the director of the Pope Francis documentary Francesco to provide stuffed animals to migrant children detained in ICE custody at the United States-Mexico border.

EXCLUSIVE: California toymaker inspired by Pope Francis documentary filmmaker to deliver stuffed animals to migrant children
Mia Cathell The Post Millennial
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A toy manufacturer was inspired by the director of the Pope Francis documentary Francesco to provide stuffed animals to migrant children detained in ICE custody at the United States-Mexico border.

Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co (BHTBC) reached out to the director behind the acclaimed Pope Francis documentary film Francesco to provide free plush toys for the children housed at government facilities in the five states bordering Mexico.

BHTBC chief executive David Socha told The Post Millennial that as a Roman Catholic, he was inspired after viewing Francesco on Discovery+, which was the brainchild of Oscar-nominated director and producer Evgeny Afineevksy.

The humanitarian crisis has left surges of unaccompanied children suffering from border politics. "What we're really doing is giving them a stuffed animal to be a friend for life," Socha explained. "It's been an uplifting scene."

Socha reached out to the Los Angeles-based Francesco filmmaker to contact Pope Francis, who has since embraced the concept. In late May, the Holy Father reviewed the toys at the Vatican, blessed the project, and Afineevsky filmed an ardent message from the Pope to offer the children hope. The Pope's message is then played at the housing facilities. BHTBC is dispensing the company's popular line of toys called Surprizamals, which are similar to stress pillows.

"No matter what side of the political aisle, and it's a forgotten issue, let's just bring smiles to the kids and let's make them happy," Socha said to The Post Millennial.

Stuffed animals are delivered to refugee children (2021)

So far, Socha has delivered 6,000 toys to children cared for by Catholic charity groups along the border of California and Texas. Last week, BHTBC initiated the delivery of thousands of stuffed animals to migrant kids at one facility in Los Angeles. More are expected to be delivered in the days ahead.

Refugee children in California enjoy toys delivered from Afineevksy and the BHTBC (June 2, 2021)

Socha will continue to deliver toys to the refugee children at facilities in all border states, hoping to provide enough stuffed animals to give one to every child under the age of 16 in federal custody now and in the near future.

"We do not concern ourselves with the politics of this crisis," Socha said. "We are acting solely as men of faith, as fathers, as a toymaker and a filmmaker to do as the Pope tells us: to help the children of God."

BHTBC has been in the toy business for almost 30 years while supporting various charities and ministries. Socha said the border initiative seemed timely and much needed. The initial donations are now all gone until resources can be boosted.

Socha said the goal is to start a ministry for refugee children in turmoil and in containment without family for months, if not years, without knowing where they're going. Donors can contribute by contacting BHTBC on social media, the company's website, and via email. "We all want hope," Socha expressed. "We just want to give these kids smiles as well as something to look forward."

"They came here for a better life and hopefully they find it," Socha said.

Refugee children in California enjoy toys delivered from Afineevksy and the BHTBC (June 2, 2021)

The next delivery phase began yesterday in McAllen, Texas, a border city and Democratic stronghold that flipped Republican over the weekend. In a run-off election Saturday, a GOP candidate managed to flip the mayorship of the Democrat-led city which has endured the brunt of the ongoing migrant crisis that's facing the Biden administration at America's southern border.

The toymaking team visited the Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley yesterday, which opens its doors as an adequate place to rest for the influx of immigrants crossing the border, in coordination with the Sacred Heart Church and the city of McAllen. The Humanitarian Respite Center provides warm meals, showers, medicine, clean clothes, and other supplies on the journey.

While everyone has differing opinion on who's to blame, Socha expressed that the refugee children, regardless, are enduring the tragic circumstances.

Refugee children in California enjoy toys delivered from Afineevksy and the BHTBC (June 2, 2021)

Live video of migrants, including young children, crossing the Rio Grande in Texas surfaced last month. In the clips, young children are hoisted above the current that was at times knee-deep for adults. Clutching babies and backpacks, the crowd trudges across the river on foot, stepping from one small island to another.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has since admitted that the Biden administration has been transporting migrant children to American cities without notifying local officials. There were reports in late May at the time that at least four planes filled with unaccompanied minors landed in the state of Tennessee, some of those touching down in the middle of the night.

An in-depth report from Reason details the dilapidated, "filthy" upkeep of one of the Biden administration's migrant facilities for children: Fort Bliss in Texas.

The piece notes that the complex was becoming more relied upon as other border processing locations were discontinued. "There's food on the floor. There's wet spots all over the place. The beds are dirty," the trainer says on the tape.

This story has been corrected to restate the relationship between the toymaker and filmmaker, which was not a formal partnership.

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