Katherine Huggins, 14, of Florence, Ala., a member of Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama and an eighth-grader at Wilson High School, delivered 25 clear storage containers filled with small stuffed animals to every volunteer fire department in her county so that firefighters could give them to children suffering the effects of fire, car accidents and domestic upheaval. In the past, Katherine had donated some of her own stuffed animals to local fire and police departments to send out with officers and firefighters on calls involving children. But last year, she and a friend who also loves stuffed animals decided to do more. They came up with the idea of collecting and donating new and gently-used stuffed animals for all of their county’s volunteer fire departments to deliver. “I knew the city had programs, but the county did not,” said Katherine. “I felt it was important that the kids in the county have a comfort item.”
To get local fire departments on board, Katherine met with fire officials and spoke at two meetings of the county firefighters association. Then she made flyers and posted them around town to solicit stuffed animal donations. She enlisted the help of friends and family to collect the animals, which she washed, sorted, and packed into 25 clear storage containers labeled “Tender Hearts.” The containers were then delivered to fire stations throughout the county so that officials responding to emergencies would have a furry friend to leave behind with a frightened child. The project has since led Katherine to other volunteer opportunities, including making a fire safety poster, donating stuffed animals to a library, and supervising activities for young children.