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9-Year-Old Stuffs Gifts With Love

Layla Wofsy turns 10 on Friday. But instead of planning a big birthday bash, she and her family are preparing to host their annual open-house charity event, "Stuffed With Love."

For the event, which has been held the Friday after Thanksgiving since 2007, the Wofsy home is transformed into a stuffed animal workshop. Hundreds of family and friends join them in making stuffed animals for children in need. "Stuffed With Love" was Layla's idea.

"When I was 6, I stopped having big birthday parties and decided to do this," said Layla, a fourth-grader at Coleytown Elementary .

Though it may be uncommon for a child to make such a decision, charity has been a part of Layla's life from a young age. Every year since her second birthday, Layla has gone to Build-A-Bear and made a stuffed animal for a child in need, said Hallie Wofsy, her mom.

But four years ago, Layla asked if they could have a stuffed-animal-making party for charity instead of a birthday party, Hallie said. And that's how "Stuffed With Love" was born.

"I always liked giving," Layla said. "It makes me feel good: I feel helpful."

In the first year, about 50 families participated, said Hallie, a Coleytown Elementary PTA. This year, about 140 families will help create nearly 350 stuffed animals.

All of the animals, which are dressed, given a birth certificate and packed in a decorated gift bag complete with a personalized card, are given to the Westport nonprofit Al's Angels for distribution to needy children.

Layla said she wouldn't trade "Stuffed With Love" for a traditional birthday party.

"They don't get stuffed animals and they don't have all the things I do," Layla said of needy children. "I'm making them happy."

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