By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – When Northborough resident Tricia Campero heard about the annual Keith Urban Fans Valentine’s Day Stuffed Monkey Drive last year, it was too late to get involved. She is a huge fan of the country rock star and was impressed by the drive’s mission, which collects and then donates stuffed monkeys to children who are ill or in need.
She said, “This is perfect, I’d love to help. How can I get involved?”
There is another reason Campero felt so strongly about the initiative – her son had suffered from leukemia and she had a connection to the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center.
She immediately contacted Eileen Henri, the founder of this movement and this year, she is the point person for the central Massachusetts collection location.
The drive began 14 years ago when Henri, a Keith Urban fan from Derby, Conn., was a new member of Urban’s fan club, then called “Monkeyville.”
Henri explained that Urban had a campaign urging his fans to become involved or volunteer in their communities. She was looking for ideas of ways to get involved when an article in her local newspaper caught her eye. A local garage was collecting stuffed monkeys for abused and neglected children at a safe house for Valentine’s Day.
“I purchased some monkeys to donate to that drive and posted about it on the fan club message board,” she recalled. “The next thing I know others were asking to join in. That first year, we collected 53 monkeys and our number has increased almost every year since. Last year, we collected an incredible 4,100 brand new stuffed monkeys.”
Urban fans have coalesced through social media sites and today there are 30 collection locations across the U.S., Australia and Canada.
The focus of the drive has shifted over the years and now the monkeys are donated to sick and hospitalized children.
The central Mass. collection location is Boston Lawnmower, 233 Turnpike Road, Westborough. The deadline for collection is Saturday, Feb. 8. Monkeys will be delivered to the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center Friday, Feb. 14.
Campero requests that the stuffed moneys be new with the tags still attached and be at least eight inches or larger.