By Sharna Johnson, Freedom Newspapers
Tucked away in fire trucks, ambulances and emergency rooms, the brightly colored bears are valuable tools for helping children deal with traumatic events.
Called “Hugga-Bears,” the soft, pillowy animals are often successful in drying up tears and helping a child smile in the midst of an otherwise bad situation, according to Bill Baca, public education director for the Clovis Fire Department.
Baca recalled a situation last year when a young boy held a bear close to him throughout the ride to the hospital after his family was involved in a vehicle accident.
“It gave him a sense of security in an otherwise unsecure situation,” Baca said.
The Road Runner Club, a local chapter of of telephone company employees and family members, have been providing “Hugga-Bears” to area emergency workers for more than 30 years, according to Club Secretary Jean Hardin.
Once a month, a group of about three to five volunteers spends a day cutting, stitching, stuffing and painting faces on the stuffed bears, which will later be distributed to the fire departments in Clovis and Portales and to the emergency room at Roosevelt General Hospital.
Hardin delivers between 35 and 50 of the bears to emergency workers every month.
Just knowing the bears help children through difficult moments is the reward she said.
“It’s really neat just knowing that your doing something that (the kids) like.” she said.
Each is unique, with large, painted eyes and a broad smile, a stitched-on sash across its chest that says “hug me.”
“They are all different, but I love them all the same,” she said.
Tuni Jones, a registered nurse in the emergency room at Roosevelt General hospital, said the bears are invaluable in dealing with children who are in pain or distress.
Emergency room workers often squish the bears and dance them through the air in front of an upset child, making bear noises and faces, according to Jones. In a matter of seconds the children are giggling and clutching the bear, not wanting to let it go.
She said they give so many out they sometimes run out.