Russ Berrie’s life was not just of a star that burned once and faded away; it is a flame that continues to burn even after his death.
Aside from toys and plush animals that grace the beds and toy chests of children and even adults, Russ Berrie left many things of value that no one in the world should ever forget.
He helped students to know the value of entrepreneurship by establishing the Russ Berrie Institute for Professional Sales. He advised the students “Set a goal, then persevere in that goal through thick and thin, overcoming all obstacles…. If you have the courage and the sense of urgency to get it done, you will do so. You can achieve what you want if you truly want it badly enough. My wish for you is that you get in touch with the person that is uniquely you. … Trust yourself enough to let the world in and savor all that it has to offer.”
Russell Berrie, the humble man who never forgot where he came from, devoted endless time, energy and resources to numerous charitable causes. Through The Russell Berrie Foundation, founded in 1985, he supported organizations and initiated projects that reflected his values and passions in the following areas: Juvenile Diabetes, Humanism in Medicine, Salesmanship as a Profession, Arts and Culture, Honoring New Jersey’s unsung heroes, and strengthening the Bergen County community.
His philanthropy earned him numerous awards and public recognition. Fortune magazine, in its February 6, 1998 issue, honored Mr. Berrie as one of the forty most generous Americans. The Russell Berrie Foundation earned the 2001 Outstanding Foundation Award presented by the New Jersey Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In November 2002, he and his wife, Angelica, were honored as Humanitarians of the Year by the New York Chapter, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Russell Berrie, master marketer of small teddy bears to plastic trolls, died at the age of 69 from heart failure in Oakland, New Jearsey. Russ Berrie’s will always be remembered for the toys his company continues to make and for the people he helped achieve their dreams.
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