Kookoo the koala: An unexpected gift of acceptance

COOPERSVILLE, Mich. -- Sitting beside each other in their second grade classroom, two Coopersville East Elementary students listened to their teacher read with two koala bears on their desk.

These two friends became three when Brielle Ruwersma started bringing her stuffed koala bear Kookoo to class. But she noticed how her classmate Easton Hirdes took a liking to Kookoo, always playing with him in class. The bear became so loved that "Team Kookoo" was written on their class' whiteboard Friday.

Ruwersma and Hirdes giggled together when he scrolled through his iPad he uses to help him communicate, and then pressed the button that spoke "koala."

"I was thinking about it and I asked my mom if I could get him his own," said Ruwersma.

"I put it in his desk, so when he opened his desk he saw it, the present, and then he opened up the bag with the Kookoo and he started taking my Kookoo and just playing along."

Then tucked inside Easton's backpack, his mother found a handwritten card Thursday that said, "To Easton, From Brielle R.:"

Dear Easton, I know you love playing with my Kookoo, so I got you your own koala. I live right up the street, maybe we could see each other sometime this summer. I see you playing sometimes when I drive by. I hope you love playing with Kookoo.

Your friend, Brielle R.

"He had come home with the stuffed animal the day before and was playing with it all evening, I didn’t think too much of it," said April Hirdes, Easton's mother. "And then when I opened his backpack the next morning and found this little note and this letter, my heart melted right there."

It's an unexpected gift between friends and reminder of the power of kindness.

"I don’t know that you’ll know the impact of what this letter and what this koala means to Easton or to me as his mom, you probably won’t realize that until you’re an adult," Hirdes said to Ruwersma, sitting with FOX 17 in the school's library. "The impact of your letter, and this gift, just moved me so greatly."

"The one thing I always wanted for all of my children, in particular Easton, is just to be accepted and to be loved for who he is, and how he looks, and how he speaks, and you gave us that."

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