Local 10-year-old girl collecting stuffed animals to help children

Toys to be distributed by firefighters

SAN DIEGO - A 10-year-old girl who was left to die at an orphanage in China is now helping children in San Diego.

Jessica Carscadden was born in China with a cleft lip and palate, said Kathleen Carscadden, who later adopted Jessica. 

"She was essentially left in what they call a 'dying room,'" said Carscadden. "It's a room that children go to that they don't except to live."

However, Jessica defied expectations and lived. Now, she's surpassing expectations and thriving in San Diego.

Jessica is collecting stuffed animals and giving them to firefighters, hoping a soft toy can bring comfort to a scared child.

"Kids can have them just in case they get in a car accident or their house is on fire," said Jessica. "The fireman can give them a bear to hug."

Her mother told 10News Jessica's teddy bear campaign might be connected to her previous suffering.

"When she was in the orphanage, we sent her a little stuffed animal," said Carscadden. "When we picked her up, she had this little stuffed animal with her, and I think maybe she really clung to that and that was her hope that things were going to be OK."

The stuffed animal project started with Jessica cleaning her room and has grown into an ambitious goal.

She wants every fire station in San Diego to have a bag filled with stuffed animals.

The fourth grader plans to reach her goal with help from Chick-fil-A. The restaurant chain first reached out to Jessica when she underwent bone grafting surgery for her lip.

"She wasn't going to be able to eat her favorite meal, which were Chick-fil-A nuggets," said marketing director Katie Hunter. "She was going to be on a liquid diet."

Chick-fil-A then gave Jessica free milkshakes.

On Saturday, Chick-fil-A location on Carmel Mountain Road will be accepting stuffed animals. Anyone who brings in a stuffed animal will get a free dessert or sandwich.

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