Andrew Huegel, 8, has a congenital heart condition and mild hearing loss. He’s lost his “lovey,” a stuffed giraffe named Raffi, and his mother has launched an online search party to help find him. (Photo: A Little Monkey Business)
An Iowa mom has put out a desperate plea on Facebook to find her 8-year-old son’s stuffed giraffe named Raffi. Her post, now gone viral, has been shared more than 143,000 times and inspired the Twitter hashtag #FindRaffi. Even iconic children’s singer Raffi tweeted his support.
The boy, Andrew Huegel, is a third grader in Iowa. He suffers from a congenital heart condition (and mild hearing loss) and has had three open-heart surgeries, causing him to spend much of his life in the hospital. On July 7, Andrew’s mother, Jen Ellett Huegel, posted on Facebook that his favorite stuffed giraffe, a “lovey” named Raffi, had gone missing.
“Raffi has been with him through it all. In every hospital room, and everywhere in between,” wrote Ellett Huegel. “He has been his best friend, and has literally gone everywhere with him for the past 8 years. At the age of 8, he is now aware of his special heart and still endures trips to the hospital on occasion. He will have more surgeries in the future. He knows his history and still loves Raffi dearly. He knows Raffi was the one constant through it all. Raffi has been lost and found many times over the years. But never gone for good — until now.”
Andrew’s mother is hoping social media can bring Raffi the stuffed giraffe home. (Photo: Facebook/Jen Ellett Huegel)
The mom, a teacher at Marshalltown Community School District, says Raffi went missing during a recent family vacation to Myrtle Beach, S.C. To help with the search, she detailed the family’s route through St. Louis to Bowling Green, Ky., through Tennessee, North Carolina, and into South Carolina. She also recalled a gas station, a Burger King, and a hotel as Raffi’s potential whereabouts.
On the Huegel family blog, the mother explains that Raffi has disappeared in the past, once in 2010.
“Raffi has been left in hotel rooms, and misplaced many times,” she wrote. “Many nights we have scrambled, searching the house for Raffi at bedtime when we are determined the bedtime routine has to go smoothly. … Raffi has followed Andrew from his crib, to toddler bed, to big boy bed.”
Andrew and best friend Raffi. (Photo: A Little Monkey Business)
Due to what Ellett Huegel calls “too many close calls,” she bought a replacement Raffi for Andrew from the children’s brand Carter’s; however, the company no longer makes the exact Raffi that Andrew owns. “They have one similar,” she explains, “but Andrew knows it’s not the real Raffi and calls it ‘Baby Raffi.’"
The Huegel family did not immediately respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment.
Andrew and Raffi watching TV. (Photo: Facebook/Jen Ellett Huegel)
According to Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills-based child psychotherapist, such so-called loveys can be hugely important for comfort. “Loveys are transitional objects that allow a child to feel comforted when their mothers aren’t present,“ she tells Yahoo Parenting. “The lovey provides a metaphoric experience of the mother, and it can be traumatic for the child if it’s lost.” Walfish further explains that replacement loveys often are rejected by the child because the beloved object has a certain softness or scent associated with their parent’s love and warmth.
Walfish offers a temporary solution for a lost lovey: Parents can cut a piece of cloth from their soft robe or blanket and give it to their child to cuddle. “Because as we can see here,” she says, “a new lovey won’t cut it.”