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Fluffy recruits provide comfort during times of emergency

By: Douglas Schmidt, Canadian Red Cross volunteer

When firefighters in Regina head out on a response, they have some extra help to call into action. Canadian Red Cross teddy bears have become standard equipment on local fire trucks, used to provide comfort to children who are affected by house fires, car crashes, and other high-stress events. “It gives you a warm feeling,” says Scott Davies, a firefighter with Regina Fire and Protective Services. “We can’t wait to give them out. The kids love them, and it takes them from high stress, to so much comfort. It makes it easier for us.”

Can a teddy bear really make a difference? Absolutely! Once the physical needs have been met by emergency crews, something as simple as a stuffed animal can bring profound comfort to a child who is going through a traumatic experience. “They are under so much stress and are not sure what is happening. You see an instant change. It really helps everyone,” says Davies.

Red Cross teddy bears in a fire truckHe recalls multiple instances where the teddy bears brought calm to a situation. From a house fire with two adults and two children, to responding to a daycare full of children – the bears did their special work. In otherwise hectic situations, the bears were a welcomed distraction to the children, some of whom immediately named their bears, gave them hugs and kisses, or turned to introduce them to other family members. As the children became calmer, their parents became calmer, providing emergency crews an opportunity to complete their assessments effectively and efficiently.

Regina Fire and Protective Services responds to more than 9,000 calls for service annually. That number is more than a statistic – it represents an incident that has changed or impacted someone’s day, or life, potentially forever. During the immediate response to an emergency, first responders now look beyond the physical needs, to also address how they can help a child cope with the emotional pain they might be experiencing.

Mental and emotional health is also a focus for the Red Cross. Aside from teddy bears, the Canadian Red Cross now offers Psychological First Aid courses. Participants learn how to help others experiencing loss, grief and stress, as well as self-care. Learners leave the training with coping strategies to prevent, identify and deal with stressful events, as well as a better understanding of what supports are available to them and how they can access or help others to access that support.

Red Cross volunteer and firefighters hold teddy bears

In Regina, staff from the Canadian Red Cross recently delivered a big box of teddy bears to the fire department. The bears will be distributed to seven fire stations throughout the city.

“It’s an instant relationship builder for us. It makes them comfortable with us, and it lets us help,” adds firefighter Kyle Parker.

The new fluffy recruits were quick to find a spot on the fire trucks, and in the hearts of those they help.

To find a Canadian Red Cross Psychological First Aid course near you, visit: https://www.redcross.ca/training-and-certification/course-descriptions/psychological-first-aid

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No request too small for the Canadian Red Cross
Comfort at any age
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