For Emily Cammeyer, an experience helping her great-grandmother at the end of her life led Cammeyer to find a way to make a difference for others in similar positions. After seeing the impact a stuffed bear had on her great-grandmother, Cammeyer began stuffing bears for other patients at Wexner Heritage Village, growing the project, Love & Hugs for Zusman Hospice, over almost a decade. Now as a college student, Cammeyer continues to provide such services while training to become a teacher, with the intention to provide a similar level of impact to students and youth.
What inspires you to give back to the community?
All of the stories I hear from patients’ families about how my program has positively impacted their loved one and their families. I love hearing every story and I want everyone to share the same experience that my family had.
Was there ever a turning point or shift that made you change how you approach community service or become active in the Jewish world?
My turning point was when my great-grandmother Joan passed away, right after my 11th birthday. My great-grandmother was the first person I ever made a Build-A-Bear for. I thought nothing of it at the time, but it meant the world to her. When she got sick and ended up in hospice, we would visit her, and the bear that my brother and I made for her was always by her side, no matter what. That bear was with her until the very end, and now I have her bear to carry on her memory forever. When she passed away, I learned how impactful one bear could be, and my goal from then on was to make sure that other hospice patients and their families experience the same comfort my family did from a bear.
Is there any particular cause, issue or organization you are especially passionate about? What have you done to address it?
Some big topics that I am passionate about are comfort and equality. I founded a program that gives bears to hospice patients that provide comfort and company when nobody else is around. I’m also passionate about equality on the other end of life. I have done research on preschool and kindergarten equality.
How did your Jewish background inform your interest in giving back?
Being involved in Wexner Service Corps for two years provided me with experiences that I will remember forever. I loved going to different cities and giving back to the community. This was a great way to connect my passion for helping people with Jewish values that we learned after every service or mitzvah we did.
Did you have any mentors? If so, what was your relationship to them and how did they impact you?
My mom is definitely my biggest mentor. She has always taught me to care for other people and she also showed me what it takes to be a leader.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the Central Ohio Jewish community? What should be done to promote change?
I would say the best thing that the Jewish community can do is to stick together and be strong together. There are a lot of horrible things that are happening around our country and we need to be there for each other during these troubling times.