Thousands of monkeys collected to celebrate Valentine's Day

More than 2,000 stuffed monkeys were collected during the annual Monkey Love Drive.

Eileen Henri of Derby and Joanne Czaplizki of Stratford, members of Keith Urban’s online community, the “Ville,” coordinated a collection again this year.

Plush monkeys were mailed in from nine countries, including Italy, Australia, Canada, England and Spain, as well as, 38 states within the United States. Keith Urban’s fans collected more than 1,760 monkeys.

Their goal was to collect more than last year, which netted 1,162. With the support and kindness of Keith Urban’s fans, they went way beyond their goal and continued to make this drive a global effort.

In honor of Keith Urban and his fans, 300 stuffed monkeys were donated to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.

Jennifer Sneider, owner of J-Cuts barber shop located at 505 Howe Ave., Shelton, said she was amazed at the outpouring of kindness from the community and the Keith Urban “Ville” fan club and Facebook fans.

“Every year our collection gets bigger and bigger,” she said. “I didn’t expect to collect so many monkeys this year.”

Collection points

Additional collection locations included Minuteman Press of 427 Howe Ave., Suite 2 and the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, 10 Progress Drive, 2nd Floor, both of Shelton. Minuteman Press also donated posters. The Shelton Lion’s Club held their own collection again this year.

Ruth Rogers, owner of Topside Cafe, 333 Boston Post Road, Milford, along with Mary Finnegan and Lenny Marconi, held their annual Monkey Love Sunday on Jan. 26.

As a member of the online meetup group, Party Express, Marconi decided to invite them to Topside each year to a monkey drop off party. Between donations from this group and customers of Topside, more than 100 stuffed monkeys were collected.

Topside holds a Monkey Love Sunday celebration each year on the Sunday before Super Bowl. Next year, they hope to have other area pubs in Milford and Shelton join in.

Some newcomers to the annual collection include the Milford Fire Department, dropping off more than 50 stuffed monkeys; Bright Horizons child care center of 3 Corporate Drive, Shelton; and United Methodist Women of the First United Methodist Church, 47 Franklin St., Ansonia.

The United Methodist Women crocheted 25 stuffed monkeys.

“We enjoyed crocheting these monkeys for a good cause — children,” said Barbara Tchakirides.  “I asked coordinators if they’ll be collecting again next year. When I learned the drive will continue, I became very excited because we can get a head start on crocheting.”

About the drive

This annual community event benefits abused and neglected children, impoverished, adopted and sick children, and frightened children involved in police calls, as well as children who may feel a little left out when a younger sibling is born and children treated for cancer or other illnesses at local hospitals.

The 7th annual Monkey Love Valentine Drive, held in 2013, collected and distributed more than 1,500 stuffed monkeys to area organizations to distribute to children in need.

Children benefited by the drive this year are serviced by the Milford and Lower Naugatuck Valley Boys & Girls Clubs, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital in New Haven, TEAM, Inc. in Derby and Ansonia, BHcare’s Center for Domestic Violence Services in Ansonia, the Shelton Police Department, the ACT-Spooner House in Shelton, Griffin Hospital of Derby, the Department of Children & Families in Milford and the Lower Naugatuck Valley-Parent Child Resource Center.

Coordinators also dropped off 26 stuffed monkeys in Newtown to be given to children affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Spreading the love

As a result of surpassing last year’s final numbers, coordinators were able to reach out to additional agencies who service children. With the assistance of Jack Walsh, from the Valley United Way, some monkey love was spread even further.

The VNA of South Central Connecticut, the International Institute of Connecticut, Refugee Services division of Bridgeport and Julia Day Nursery and Kindergarten of Ansonia were also recipients of some new friends to present to children in need.

According to Laura Jones, manager of refugee services at the International Institute, “We serve recently-arrived refugee families, as well as asylees, asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking.

"We serve a number of children who come to us through these programs, either on their own or with their parents, who would really appreciate receiving one of these special monkeys," Jones said.

For information on participating next year, beginning Jan. 1, 2015, call J-Cuts at 203-924-4107. J-Cuts also holds an annual Back-To-School Book Bag and School Supply Drive that begins July 1.