(CNN)Alex Walker has spent a lot of time in and out of hospital beds since she was diagnosed with epilepsy at just 11 months old.
Each time Alex went to the hospital, her best friend — a brown teddy bear named Sky Bear — went with her.
“He makes me feel very happy and not scared,” says Alex, 7, of the toy her dad bought before she was born.
Alex cuddles Sky Bear through doctor visits, squeezes him during shots. Nurses attach electrodes to Sky Bear to mimic what Alex is going through. Her parents bandage his head.
During one of her longer visits to Cleveland Clinic Children’s hospital, Alex noticed other kids didn’t have stuffed animals to cuddle.
“When we got in the car to go home, she was really quiet. Alex said she was worried about children still in the hospital,” Walker says. “She didn’t see them with their ‘friends.'”
Alex, then 4, squirreled away her birthday dollars and other money she earned from little chores until she’d managed to save $65. Then, instead of spending it at Chuck E. Cheese’s, her favorite place, she wanted to buy teddy bears for the kids she’d left behind at the hospital.
Since that day three years ago, Alex has managed to buy 400 plush toys, many of them bears but also “bunny rabbits, pigs — I like to give all different kinds,” the girl says. She paid for the stock with donations solicited by word of mouth and proceeds from tomato plants she grew and sold.
Once a month, Alex and her mom deliver them to a local Ronald McDonald House, Cleveland Clinic, other area hospitals, police and fire stations, women’s shelters and foster care programs.
“It was hard to spread the word and get people to support it,” Walker says. “We don’t have 6,000 Facebook friends.”
So they started a GoFundMe campaign called “Alex’s Fluffy Buddies For Kids.” Money trickled in until this month, when GoFundMe noticed her sweet cause and made Alex their “Kid Hero” for June. Since then, more than $16,000 has poured in.
“These donations coming in not only takes stress off of us to support what she wants to do,” Walker says. “We want her to do it as long as she wants to. I think it’s important for kids to learn to be kind to other people.”
Alex hopes to use the money to package up toys and send them to young patients who need comforting in other states, so other kids can cuddle up with their own Sky Bears when they’re hurting or must be prodded or poked by nurses and doctors.
Alex says she hopes she can make a difference, “so they’ll be very happy and not scared.”