Emergency Services receive cute and cuddly new recruits to reassure children

Peter Borman, David Robinson, Kerry Dickson, Tom McDevitt, Irene Hancock and Trevor Rees with the RFS's newest recruit. Photo: Jody Potts
Peter Borman, David Robinson, Kerry Dickson, Tom McDevitt, Irene Hancock and Trevor Rees with the RFS's newest recruit. Photo: Jody Potts

The NSW Rural Fire Service in Harden has taken delivery of several boxes of the cuddliest recruits in the service.

'Gentle Bears' are the brainchild of Gallagher Bassett and the South Australian Police Department, who wanted to provide children with an emotional aid during an emergency and distract them from distressing situations.

There are Gentle Bears present in hospitals, schools, Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Kids For Cancer, Candlelighters Children's Cancer Research Laboratory, Housing South Australia, Department for Communities and Social Inclusion and a number of other charities.

"We wondered what we were seeing when we first opened the boxes." RFS South West Slopes Community Safety Officer Tom McDevitt said.

"We hope to have at least one bear in every emergency services vehicle in the South West Slopes Zone, which extends through the Local Government Areas of Gundagai, Cootamundra, Harden, Young and Boorowa."

Mr McDevitt said that for Emergency Services personnel, attending an emergency where a child is involved, can be one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives.

"A large portion of the emergencies we are called out to are motor vehicle accidents, mostly on the highways." Mr McDevitt said.

"We are seeing people on the worst days of their lives, and to turn up at an accident where mum or dad is injured or unconscious, to be able to offer a child an immediately recognisable object of comfort; a teddy bear; will not only calm the child, but assist our officers."

Mr McDevitt said that in the past, 'Trauma Teddies', hand knitted teddies constructed by volunteers, were used by emergency services and hospitals.

"The Trauma Teddies were very well received in the past, so we are hoping that the 'Gentle Bear' will do the same job." Mr McDevitt said.

"We are aiming to get the bears out to all emergency services, including the smaller village brigades as soon as possible and set up a reliable system to have them replaced as soon as they are given out."

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