Stuff the Duffel, started in honor of AJ Freund, packs nearly 4K bags for foster children

The grand total of packed duffel bags collected for foster children from the monthlong Stuff the Duffel charity drive came to 3,953, said co-organizer Alicia Wehby of Crystal Lake.

Wehby said bags will be delivered to the Let It Be Us foster care organization in Barrington, Lutheran Social Services, Children’s Home and Aid, CASA of McHenry County, Willow Creek of Crystal Lake Foster Services, Hephzibah Children’s Association, the Department of Child and Family Services, Safe Families and Shelter Inc. Several more also are in the works, Wehby added.

Stuff the Duffel was started in April in response to the death of 5-year-old AJ Freund, whose parents are accused of beating and killing him.

Since then, thousands of people joined the fundraiser’s Facebook page, dozens of businesses and organizations served as dropoff locations for provisions and hundreds of volunteers helped to sort and stuff duffel bags for foster children as they enter a new home.

The fundraiser also helped to start a nonprofit called Second Bridge, which seeks to provide additional support for foster children beyond the first 24 to 48 hours they’re in a new home.

Wehby said business at Second Bridge has picked up and members have already provided for a number of special events like birthdays.

For more information on Second Bridge or how to donate, visit secondbridge.org.