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I Never Grew Up

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Jerry Kean ’20

Jerry Kean holds his trusty stuffed animals, Toffee and Mr. McChicken
Photo credit: Jack Zellweger

Kean beat the odds of survival with his stuffed animals Toffee and Mr. McChicken by his side. Kean was born with a congenital heart defect called double outlet right ventricle, a life threatening condition with low survival rates. His family gifted Kean his first ever possession, Toffee, after the doctor broke them the news. “They wanted me to own something before I died,” Kean said. Last year, Kean underwent surgery a second time, and received Mr. McChicken to help him through his recovery. But Kean’s stuffed animals have helped him outside the hospital, too. “When I was growing up, I always looked to Toffee for comfort. When I was afraid of the dark … or of some conflict in my family that I couldn’t understand, I would always look to Toffee as my friend … Both of these stuffed animals represent my own resilience in life, my drive to overcome any challenges that I face.”

Hannah Johnston, class of 2020, shows off Doggy, her stuffed animal
Photo credit: Jack Zellweger

Hannah Johnston ’20

Johnston and her stuffed animal Doggy have gone almost everywhere together since the day Johnston was born. “If I go to bed, I have a searching feeling, like there’s nothing to hold,” she said. Originally a display animal from Pottery Barn, Doggy has taken quite a beating over the years. “Doggy was originally white and blue plaid … this is none of his original material,” she said. In fact, Doggy has been stitched up so many times, he wears none of his original clothing. Johnston and Doggy are constant buddies on adventures around town — he even filled in as Toto to Johnston’s Dorothy one Halloween. But while trick-or-treating together, Doggy was accidentally left behind on a neighbor’s porch, and Johnston spent all night searching the neighborhood for her friend. Ever since being accepted to Kenyon, Johnston knew she could not leave him again. “It would be too long to go without him,” she said.

Maxwell Green ’20

Maxwell Green, class of 2020, displays his collection of stuffed animals
Photo credit: Jack Zellweger

Green holds his two most treasured stuffed animals, Penguini the penguin and Leamy the lion, in his left hand, along with a few more from his collection in his right. Green received Penguini from his mother on the day he was born. His father spotted Leemy on a pile of trash in Green’s hometown in New Hampshire and rescued him when Green was two years old. Since then, Green has taken Penguini and Leamy everywhere. Their most recent trip was to Machu Picchu, Peru. In spite of this, Green said, “I wash them very rarely— like every couple of years or so” because he does not want the stuffing to fall out. In recent years, Green has patched up Penguini a couple of times to fix seams split apart from too much “rubbing and love.” Green says he always knew he was going to bring Penguini and Leamy to college. “I think it was a given that wherever I was going to go, they were going to come,” he said.

Elana Spivack, class of 2017, poses with her stuffed penguin, Pudge-O
Photo credit: Jack Zellweger

Elana Spivack ’17

After moving to a new state at the age of seven, Spivack knew she would need a friend by her side. She found her penguin, Pudge-O, in a CVS metal bin. “My mom said he could be my first New Jersey stuffed animal,” she said. Since then, Pudge-O has accompanied Spivack across the country — in school, at sleepaway camp and in Spain. But rather than tuck Pudge-O under her arm on her journeys, Spivack positions him on her head. The arrangement dates back to grade school, when Spivack had a friend come over when she was “feeling sort of low.” “I was in my puddle form, and I just put Pudge-O on my head and vented, and it felt really silly and good,” she said. Pudge-O continues to comfort Spivack in his new position on the Hill. “I thought [Kenyon] would be a good alternative form of education [for him],” she said. “He’s been learning a lot here. I’m really proud of him. He’s achieving his full potential.”

Teahelahn Keithrafferty, class of 2019, perches her two stuffed bunnies on her shoulders
Photo credit: Jack Zellweger

Teahelahn Keithrafferty ’19

Keithrafferty’s bunnies may be pink and blue, but they do “not contribute to the gender binary.” Rather, they represent the comfort and security Keithrafferty often lacked as a child. Growing up with many siblings and alcoholic parents, Keithrafferty relied on her bunnies for solidarity. “For me, they represent a kind of stability in a home that’s not so stable,” she said. “And maybe they represent childhood nostalgia. Just fun, happy, good. You know, the part of me as a child that pretended everything was okay even when maybe it wasn’t.” The bunnies are matching, but were purchased separately. Little Pink Bunny (LPB) was given to Keithrafferty by a friend when she was six years old. She always dreamt that LPB would have a “boyfriend with a mohawk,” but found a companion in Little Blue Bunny (LBB) years later at a garage sale. LBB was available for only 50 cents, but meant much more to Keithrafferty. “I almost cried,” she said. “I would have paid so much more and given all of my savings, which were probably like $20. It was honestly one of the best days of my life.”



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