Children in Walker County shaken by a traumatic event will now have a furry little friend to hold on to.
Walker County Emergency Services recently received a donation of 30 teddy bears and 150 coloring books from local State Farm Agent Mike Herndon and his team, based in Rock Spring.
While the coloring books will be taken to local schools to aid in safety education, the bears will ride along with county firefighters until they find themselves in the arms of a child following a fire, car wreck or other emergency situation.
"Teddy bears can provide a sense of comfort and security during a turbulent time," Fire Chief Blake Hodge said in a news release. "I hope these friendly faces will remind our youngest patients that the community cares about their well-being, and make a scary situation a little less frightening."
The bears have been distributed to every fire station in Walker County, and the local insurance office plans to deliver a fresh supply when the one in WCES's possession is halved.
Herndon said his team has sent teddy bears to local day care centers in past years, but this is the first time they have gifted the bears with a specific need in mind.
Despite the joy it brings, the holiday season is often more hazardous than many people think, said Herndon.
According to data compiled by the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas trees caused an average of 170 home fires during each year between 2012 and 2016. Over that same time period, holiday decorations, such as string lights, caused an average of 800 home fires each year.
The holidays are also a peak time for candle fires, the NFPA reports. Data from 2016 shows that candles accounted for 56 percent of all home decoration fires reported in December, while they only accounted for 31 percent of decoration fires throughout the rest of the year.
"The holidays can be tough when a family loses everything — it's tough any day of the year," Herndon said.
Though he hopes the teddy bears will bring some peace to any children in Walker County who may have to face such a tragedy this year, Herndon said he hopes the number of tragedies are few.
He urges families to turn their Christmas lights off before bed or when they leave the house to prevent any incidents. Additional precautionary measures recommended by the NFPA include watering real Christmas trees to keep their dry branches from acting as kindling; placing trees at least 3 feet away from heat sources like heat vents, fireplaces or direct sunlight; and checking lights for loose connections, broken or cracked sockets, and frayed or bare wires.
Email Myron Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org.