Project Cuddle, which places stuffed toys in police cars for children to hug, recently received a $5,000 donation from the Newport Beach-based National Charity League, the first large donation from a charity in Orange County. The money came at an opportune time, said founder Debbe Magnusen, because it is difficult to raise money during the summer.

Magnusen started the Costa Mesa-based program in 1988 after she discovered why her 3-year-old foster son was so scared of police cars: He was afraid that they would take him back to "jail," which is what he called the shelter home the police took him to after his mother was arrested. "I discovered that no one had taken the time to remember how a frightened child feels in a traumatic situation," Magnusen said. "If that was me, I would want something to hold on to." So she began to place stuffed toys in police cars, and Project Cuddle was born. The program is funded by private donations and run by more than 550 volunteers nationwide.

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