A 23-year-old man is starting a stuffed animal collection drive to distribute to local first responders to give to children in emergency situations.
Organizer Dustin Ulmer started the drive with two stuffed animals on Monday but he hopes to collect 1,000 before Thanksgiving next year. On Tuesday, a person who wanted to remain anonymous donated 40 stuffed animals.
"I think it would make a difference because when a child goes through something that is really traumatic. We really have to show them that we care and that someone,” Ulmer said.
Waco Police Crime Prevention Officer Sofie Martinez said officers usually keep stuffed animals in their patrol cars.
"Sometimes you go on a call where a child has suffered a traumatic event whether it would be a crash, they are the sole survivor of a crash you know they are the victim of a crime,” Martinez.
She said offering a child a stuffed animal during a difficult time gives them comfort.
"They hold them tight, they hug them. They use them as a security blanket,” Martinez said.
Hewitt Police Chief James Devlin said it also helps first responders connect with the victims.
"You have now police and fire strangers entering into their lives and they don't know who we are for the most part. It's an icebreaker and it does calm things down when we can give a stuffed animal during a moment of crisis,” Devlin said.
Both Devlin and Martinez welcome donations of gently used or new stuffed animals.
"That stuffed animal is going to be there with them. No matter where they go, CPS or with a family member, they have that stuffed animal to give them comfort to wherever journey this incident takes them through,” Martinez said.
The stuffed animals would go to Hewitt and Waco police and fire departments.
The Hewitt Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the 700 block of Sun Valley Boulevard and Michelle's Bling at 635 North Robinson Dr. in Robinson are two drop off locations for the 3 Stuffed Animals a Day drive. You can also visit the Facebook page or contact the organizer on Facebook.
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