Bears for Badges collects stuffed bears for area fire fighters and police who use them to help comfort children in emergencies such as fires and accidents.
Waynedale’s STAR Bank representative Claudia Cassiano with Officer Stevan Schulien (liason officer for the Sandpoint Neighborhood Association) prepares for the “Bears for Badges” program.
STAR Financial Bank is hoping to gather over 5,000 teddy bears in its 3rd annual “Bears for Badges” drive, now through December 13, 2004. The bears will be given to local fire fighters and police, who use them in emergency situations to help comfort and calm children who have fallen victim to fires, accidents, domestic violence and other unfortunate situations. New and clean, gently-used teddy bears can be donated at any of STAR’s 41 banking centers throughout central and northeastern Indiana. The STAR branch in Waynedale is located at 6240 Bluffton Road and has already started their collection of bears.
STAR’s “Bears for Badges” drive started in Anderson, Indiana 2 years ago, when two of the employees there, Alice Huffman and Sue Gayle, wanted to organize a holiday project for STAR employees that would help children in need. Huffman recalled stories from her son, Ron Huffman, a lieutenant with the New Castle Fire Department, and her grandson, Doug Lackey, a fireman with the Shirley Volunteer Fire Department. She said, “When a child is standing outside his burning home, seeing everything in his world going up in flames, having a teddy bear to hug, to cry into, brings a little bit of comfort.”
As bears donated by employees began lining the STAR’s main office in Anderson, customers asked if they could participate, too. As a result, 714 bears were gathered in 2002. The drive expanded into other STAR communities in 2003. Waynedale’s STAR service center and branch office collected over 300 bears last year.
The fire and police departments know first hand that the “Bears for Badges” program is a big help. “It is one of those projects that during the holidays can reach a soft spot in everyone’s heart,” said Kristina Laughlin, STAR Financial Bank Vice President. “It is a unique project like the food drive and coat drive, only this drive brings a lot of smiles to those during a stressful time. We hope that these bears can be used by our local fire or police departments to help a child whether it be during a domestic violence, auto accident, or house fire. It is our way of saying “thanks” to our partners – the police and fire fighters.”
Anderson Fire Chief J.R. Rosencrans knows first hand the “Bears for Badges” program is a big help. “We had a two-car accident, and we were the first emergency unit to arrive. One auto had a mother and three children. None of the children – safely buckled into their seats – were injured, but the mother had some bleeding around her temple where the air bag deployed and caused her glasses to cut her face. The children saw the blood and the damage done to the autos, and they became hysterical. When a firefighter has three crying children and a bleeding mother to cope with, the emergency worker’s stress level rockets. I remembered having some teddy bears in the back compartment of the fire truck, so I stuck my head in the back of the car and said, ‘Whoa, I got a surprise for you guys. Don’t go away.’ I’m sure the older child read some humor into my remark because they were all buckled in. But when I came back to the car with three different bears and said, ‘Who wants brown? Who wants white? Who wants yellow?’ I could see they stopped focusing on the trauma of the auto accident. They had something they could hold and relate to – a cuddly teddy bear.”
STAR’s Bears for Badges drive is in its second year in Waynedale. Teddy bears to be donated can be dropped off during business hours at STAR Financial Bank in Waynedale Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.
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