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While other children play soccer or video games, Campbell “Bumble” Remess hunches over a sewing machine, crafting stuffed animals.
"I just like coming home and sewing," said Remess in a video by Feed SBS about his toy making, which has been viewed 29 million times on Facebook.
Even when mom Sonya "Son" Whittaker encourages him to do something else, Remess "sneaks" back to make more stuffed animals.
"If Campbell could be on that sewing machine 24/7, he would. It's 'Campbell, go and play your Xbox.' 'Campbell come and watch a movie,'" she said in the video.
"He's just not a normal kid. Not every 12 year old would want to do that."
Over the past three years, Remess has made more than 800 plush toys, many of which he personally delivers to sick children at the local hospital.
“I literally shake with emotion — it’s an incredible thing to witness,” Whittaker told TODAY via email. “One small idea, one small gesture can make huge impacts.”
Remess, who lives in Hobart, Tasmania, was 9 he asked his parents if he could buy Christmas gifts for sick children. He wanted to do something to brighten their spirits. His parents said no; Remess is one of nine children and it’s hard enough buying for their brood.
But he didn’t let that ‘no’ stop him. Remess said he’d just make something for the children and Whittaker thought that sounded great. She assumed he’d make a bunch of paintings or drawings. But then he approached her with pattern for a stuffed animal he found online, asking if she could make sense of it. She struggled with it, but he figured it out.
“I had a pattern and wanted to make it and I knew I could do it if I practiced,” he said via email. “Mum told me ‘Just don’t sew your finger,’ but I’ve done that a few times and once all the way through.”
Yet, none of his sewing mishaps have slowed him down — then or now. After about five hours of work, he had his first toy, a wonky stuffed bear.
“I was blown away by the first bear,” said Whittaker. “Overly impressed and totally in awe but not surprised at his persistence to teach himself.”
Remess kept practicing. With each toy, it took him less time to finish. By his fourth bear, he felt confident. He decided he wanted to make a bear a day, calling his endeavor, Project 365 by Campbell. He now makes toys for children all over the world, but he still delivers stuffed animals weekly at Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania. He loves seeing how sick children transform when they receive the toys.
“They smile and some hug me. It makes their whole day better,” he said.
Remess relies on donated money and materials to make his stuffed animals. He loves using long pile fur to make bright, colorful, shaggy animals. While many of the toys are stuffed bears, he does make other creatures. He customizes each toy with the child’s name on one of the hind paws.
After three people died when a ride overturned in the Dreamworld theme park last week, Remess wanted to help and made toys for the two children who lost their parents.
"Campbell is just wired really differently," Whittaker said in the video. "He looks at sadness and tries to turn it upside down."
That's why she's not surprised by her son’s determination to use his animals to bring joy to children in tragic circumstances.
“He’s not a quitter — I only see bigger and brighter things for him."