By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor

Police chiefs from the Quad Cities recently accepted teddy bears from Miss Arkansas Elayna Russell. The bears were given to them through Caring With Cuddles, a project Elayna is doing for community outreach under her platform of Be the Sunshine. Pictured are Ash Flat Police Chief Steve Powell, Elayna, Highland Police Chief Shane Russell, Cherokee Village Police Chief Monte Lane and Hardy Police Chief Scott Rose.

An area high school junior is making an impact on her communities in a big way. After being named Miss Arkansas in the Diamond National USA Miss Arkansas State Scholarship pageant last November, 15-year old Elayna Russell has used her platform to help others. She was named Best interview and Best Overall in the pageant.
Throughout her reign, she has conducted community projects through her platform.
Every day when she would go off to school her parents would tell her to “be the sunshine.” “That just means loving God, loving others and being kind. That is just something that has been my life motto and something I have tried to live my life by,” she said.
While Elayna admits she loves pageants and competing on stages, she feels it is more important to show young girls what true beauty is.“It is more than that, it’s about your smarts and your heart. That is what makes you truly beautiful, loving God, loving others and being kind. That’s why I started the Be the Sunshine,” she explained.

Miss Arkansas Elayna Russell established Caring With Cuddles to provide police officer with cuddly toys to give children they encounter on domestic calls. Russell has been able to provide teddy bears to all four police departments in the Quad Cities.

Through her platform, Elayna has established a pageant system for young girls to teach them the values that equate to real beauty, besides just being an outward appearance.
She loves her platform but had been exploring ways to make a more direct impact on others and help people in her community, while “being the sunshine.”
Since school, pageants and social activities aren’t enough, this brilliant 15 year old also began helping with another community outreach program.
Elayna’s pageant photographer, Alyssa Burkes, has been working with The School of Yaya’s Fishes, a foundation in Jonesboro and alerted her to a need to promote awareness for the unique foundation. Terri Mommsen, the school’s founder is the only instructor in the state certified to teach infants how to survive an accidental fall into water. Through partnering with the foundation, Elayna has set up river floats and a 5K for later in the year as a fundraiser for foundation that will provide scholarships for students in need.
The teen go getter didn’t stop there, she has also started her own small business Threads of Hope, an Instagram based jewelry business. Through her store, she sells jewelry she makes with $1 from every sale donated to missions in West Africa, where her father is a missionary. Since she was a child, she has Skyped with her father while serving and has even been able to meet some of the people from West Africa. She has earned $400 dollars for the people and with the money, they have been able to help purchase donkeys, goats, chickens and rice for the needy of the country.
Besides being active with the pageants, and foundation and operating a small business, the 16 year began Caring with Cuddles, a community outreach program that provides police officers with stuffed animals to present to children on calls that may be stressful or emotional to the children.
The husband of one of her mother, Nancy Russell’s client’s was a retired police officer who implanted the idea that created Elaine’s current community outreach program. Her mother told the story of how the officer had some items to donate in his vehicle when he was called out on a domestic violence call. Within the bag of donations was one of his daughter’s teddy bears. He was able to give it to a child at the scene to ease their fear during a traumatic experience. She and her mother thought it would be a way to help local police officers. “It has really touched my heart. It has been something I have really enjoyed doing,” Elayna said.
This set root for Caring with Cuddles.
She has been blown away by the donations and generosity of the community. Elayna was able to stock Cherokee Village, Hardy, Highland and Ash Flat’s Police Department’s patrol vehicles with teddy bears on June 27.
After posting about the event on social meeting, First Community Bank reached out to Elayna’s Caring with Cuddles outreach and donated $250 to purchase more teddy bears and bags for the program on June 30.
Anyone interested in donating can contact Elayna at 870-351-6223 or by messaging her on Facebook, or Nancy at 870-273-3950.
Elayna is a going to be a junior at Mammoth Spring High School in the fall.

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