Like many people who have dabbled in social media, Richard Sains from the English town of Billericay, Essex, was a skeptic.
“For me I’m always a little bit hesitant with social media — there can be a lot of negativity,” he said, according to the Mirror.
But a recent interaction with multiple strangers, all freely offering their time and assistance to restore joy to his little girl, has got him thinking differently.
It all began during a family vacation back in August, when Richard, his wife Chrissie, and their daughters Meg, 12, and Hattie, 10, went on a road trip through Iceland.
One of their stops was at a campground near Vik i Myrdal. After they moved on, Hattie realized too late that she’d left something precious behind.
“Cowie” was a very important stuffed animal to Hattie. He’d been with her since she was two, and the thought of losing him was distressing — but the family was unable to return and retrieve him, as they had booked each of their stops and had a flight to catch.
“She was really upset at first,” Chrissie, 42, said, according to the Echo. “She thought she might have lost him rather than left him.
“We got in touch with campsite and they said she’d left him within the covers of bell tent.”
But when they tried to get Cowie sent home, they ran into roadblock after roadblock.
“We tried to get him sent to Reykjavik for the end of the trip and when that didn’t happen I booked couriers to go and pick him up, but they didn’t collect,” Richard wrote in a Facebook post. “I couldn’t get the campsite to send him either.
“I tried everything for a couple of months but no joy. On Monday, Hattie was upset at bedtime thinking that Cowie was never coming home so I posted about the situation on the Travel Iceland Facebook group.”
And that was the ticket. Over 20 people commented on the post, offering help or advice, and soon a relay was organized.
The first leg of the journey went to 43-year-old Óðinn Yngvason, who personally made the trip to the campground and secured Cowie.
In true stuffed-animal-rescuer fashion, during their trip, he made sure to take lots of photos with famous landmarks and give the family updates along the way.
He handed Cowie off to Halldór Ingvason, who was headed to the Reykjavik airport.
Ingvason escorted Cowie to London, taking more photos along the way, of course. He also picked up a new friend for Cowie: A stuffed puffin. He and Richard met at a pub in Bloomsbury and made the transfer over a few beers.
While Richard had planned on surprising Hattie with the unexpected return of her beloved toy, the photos and story writing itself online were too wonderful not to share.
“We were going to keep it a surprise but I kept seeing those photos so I had to show Hattie,” he said. “She was like ‘what? Is Cowie going to come home? Please can you make sure he’s on my bed so when I wake up he’s there!'”
He held good on that promise, and now that Cowie’s settled back into their lives with a new friend to boot, Richard has expressed his gratitude for the people who helped send Cowie 2,300 miles back home and has recognized the positive tool that social media can be.
“… you can be put almost immediately in contact with fantastic people around the world who are willing to help you,” he said. “I’m more willing to help people, I’ll definitely pay it back.”
“Thanks to everyone in Travel Iceland and especially Óðinn Yngvason and Halldór Ingvason for bringing Cowie home and getting some great pictures along the way!” he posted on Facebook. “We’ll be going back to Iceland very soon — we’ll keep Cowie with us this time!”
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