Target offers Teddy bears to kids |

Target offers Teddy bears to kids

by Linda Hiller

Children in the middle of a disaster need something to quell their fears, even if it’s only a small, brown Teddy bear.

Firefighters and emergency medical technicians in Douglas County now have plush bears to hand out to children in these situations, thanks to the Target Store.

“This is the 10th year Target has done the Helping Hugs program,” said Juanita Kramer, spokesperson at the north Valley Target. “We gave 200 of them to all the area fire departments, the Nevada Division of Forestry fire department, the district office, the emergency medical technician departments and, eventually, bears will also reach the sheriff’s department.”

– Paramedics especially need them. Mike Bournazian, Jacks Valley Volunteer Fire Department chief, said the bears will serve to quiet children, especially on paramedic calls.

“Having something like this is a good tool for us,” he said. “In one way, we’re very fortunate because we won’t need them on a regular basis, but since we respond to medical calls and often arrive several minutes before the paramedics, it will help us when we’re trying to get everything under control and get people calmed down. When you have children on the scene, they directly impact how the adults are acting.”

Bournazian said a recent incident with a family and their two young sons would have been a perfect time to have had a Teddy bear or two to give away.

“The kids weren’t hurt, but they were upset about their dad and wanted to make sure he was OK, and we always try to separate the children from a stressful situation,” he said. “Sometimes, if it’s a medical call where the parent is impacted, that’s the hardest because you want to address the child’s parents or guardians and take care of them, and being able to offer something a child can relate to, like a Teddy bear, is great.”

– Program’s history. Since 1991, Target Stores, in partnership with the Hershey chocolate company, have given away 900,000 Helping Hugs bears to communities that Target serves.

“Target has 900 stores nationwide and they each gave away 200 bears this year – that’s a lot of Teddy bears,” Kramer said. “Everybody relates to a Teddy bear – adults, boys and girls.”

The program began as part of Target’s commitment to communities where their stores reside.

“While adults are busy dealing with the immediate needs of an emergency, children’s fears are often overlooked,” a Target Helping Hugs brochure reads. “EMTs and American Red Cross disaster response workers have reported that providing a plush animal for a child can help calm their fears, whether the emergency is a fire, a natural disaster, an auto accident or any other traumatic situation.”

Target opened in Douglas County Oct. 10, 1999, and to date has donated thousands of dollars to the community, not counting 200 Teddy bears for children.