FIRESTONE, Colo. — A mountain of 303 stuffed animals with different shapes, sizes and stories used to sit in Trent John’s Firestone bedroom. They came from all over Colorado and were placed delicately outside the home of Shannan Watts. The Frederick mother and her two daughters — 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste — were killed last summer.
The stuffed animals were left there by members of the community hoping they would bring comfort after the murders. With the family’s permission, John has organized volunteers to re-purpose these mementos into blankets, and months later, they’re almost done.
“These kids are taking their own stuffed animals and dropping them off,” John said. “When you wrap your heart around that for a second, it’s really, really touching that some child is like, ‘Well, they need my stuffed animal.'”
John says they’ve received donations for supplies from across the country and around the world, with nearly a dozen women working tirelessly to cut and sew each stuffed animal into a blanket.
“To watch moms take care of these stuffed animals and to put that much love into them, I don’t even know what to say,” John said.
John works to send these blankets to first responders across the country, so they in turn can give them to kids in crisis. As a reserve police officer, John says he’s been in those situations firsthand.
As they work to finish the last batch from the Watts’ memorial, he’s planning on giving those to law enforcement officers in the Fredrick area.
But with his reputation growing, John received an unexpected and humbling request. He says Jessica Ridgeway’s family reached out, asking John to organize the same work for the stuffed animals left at her memorial.
“To have the family reach out and say, ‘Hey, could you do the same thing with ours?,’ you feel the magnitude of what they would like to turn that into,” John said.