Sock monkeys have been bringing a smile to children's faces dating back to the Great Depression, and today – more than 80 years later – that's still the case.
Students in Ana Laura Batres's family and consumer science class at Castle Dome Middle School spent time this past semester hand-sewing sock monkeys to be donated to children at Amberly's Place.
“Each sock monkey has a tag on it with words of encouragement and the name of the person who made it so the victim can put a name with the support — this makes it personal,” said Amberly's Place Executive Director Diane Umphress.
She shared that children who are victims of abuse get the choice of choosing between a monkey, a quilt or stuffed animal to take with them during their visit at Amberly's Place.
“... I wish the students could see the smiles and look of happiness on the faces of the children as they select the sock monkey they want, some have even named the monkey before they leave,” she said. “The message is loud and clear, the students at Castle Dome Middle School care. That is enough to help get the victim to the next step in the healing process.”
Umphress added that the sock monkeys are a child favorite.
“Last year was the first year the students made the sock monkeys for us, and they were gone within no time at all,” she said.
Umphress spoke to the class of eighth-grade students and shared that gifts like these help victims feel supported during a time when they are embarrassed and scared.
“I have gone to schools and done presentations and had a student come up to me afterwards and tell me they have been to Amberly's Place and they still have the quilt or sock monkey and it reminds them every day that someone cares,” said Umphress. “Donations such as this help to take the sigma away, regarding reporting abuse. With national statistics telling us one in four girls will be molested before they turn 18 and one in six boys will be molested before they turn 18, the shame and fear need to be replaced by support and we need to recognize the courage it takes to report abuse, as most times the abuser is a family member or friend.”
Batres shared that she had the idea to have her students sew the monkeys as an end-of-semseter project after going through a campuswide protocol training for mandated reporters led by Amberly's Place.
“I told the students about the idea of making a sock monkey, what I had learned about Amberly's Place and how children there would be so happy to reach out into that box and see something different, something made with love, something made with the hands of a child — a stunning sock monkey. My students were excited; they didn't think twice... There were students so eager to start this sewing project that they brought the socks the next day I asked for them.”
She noted that students took about one month to complete their projects by hand due to a lack of sewing machines. The course, she explained, is similar to what used to be commonly referred to as “home economics” class.
“Despite of how time consuming it was, students never ever complained about the hand sewing,” she said. “They all made their monkey with love and dedication... Every student was striving for perfection in this project, they all wanted for their monkey to be the best because they knew that it was for a special child.”
Batres said that she has committed to Umphress that as long as she teaches the course at Castle Dome Middle School, her class will be donating the sock monkeys yearly.
“We need to teach our youth the importance of compassion and give them the opportunity to express their compassion for others because once they learn how it feels, they will never forget it,” she concluded.