CARE BEARS: Scouts collecting stuffed toys to ease children’s trauma
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

March 14, 2006 -- Representatives from the three local law enforcement agencies in Hopkins County helped local Boy and Girl Scouts on Tuesday kick off their newest service project, Bears on Patrol, at Dixon-Petty Cadillac-Pontiac.

Beginning Wednesday, a number of local businesses and law enforcement agencies will be accepting donations of new or very gently used teddy bears for children facing traumatic circumstances.

Among the Boy and Girl Scouts who have indicated their intent to participate in the bear drive are Boy Scout Troop 69, Cub Scout Packs 77 and 66, and Venture Crew 2005, and Girl Scout troops 146 and 80, according to Kathie Gentry, the Boy Scouts of America Troop 69 leader who is coordinating the effort.

The local Bears on Patrol project was initiated by Gentry, who as part of her training as an adult leader is required to perform five projects. Gentry's family recently moved to the Sulphur Springs area from Carrollton, where the project was met with such huge success that it had to be discontinued due to lack of space to store the donated toys.

After an officer mentioned how useful a stuffed toy would have been for a young child last fall when he was called out on a domestic disturbance, Gentry contacted Carrollton officials to find out more about the Bears on Patrol conducted there and to make sure they could use the name Bears on Patrol.

The scout leader then contacted the top law enforcement officers at the local agencies to see if they would be receptive to the idea, then made contact with scout leaders. The program really took off from there, incorporating two Girl Scout troops in addition to the Boy Scout troops and Venture Crew members, as well as support from a number of local businesses willing to act as collection sites for donated bears.

At least four local businesses and a church, upon learning of the program, agreed not only to act as collection sites but have already committed to making either monetary or toy donations, as well. Those sponsors included Lowe's, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Masters Appliance and Shannon Oaks Church.

Dixon-Petty Cadillac-Pontiac let the scouts host the Tuesday kickoff, and allowed scouts and Venture Crew members to use their garage area to decorate and store the distribution boxes which will be left at the following locations Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning: Hopkins County Sheriff's Office, Texas Department of Public Safety driver's license bureau, Sulphur Springs Police Department, First United Methodist Church, Dixon-Petty Cadillac-Pontiac, ABC Autoplex, Community Bank, Alliance Bank and Guaranty Bond Bank.

The bears can be presented to child victims of traffic accidents, child abuse, domestic violence, fires, residential burglaries or other unsettling experiences to help lessen the trauma they are suffering.

"Bears are helpful in cases where a child may be hesitant or afraid to talk to an adult about an incident, but the child will 'talk' to the bear," according to Gentry, who contacted SSPD Chief Jim Bayuk, Sheriff Butch Adams and DPS Sgt. Tony McCollum to confirm each agency's cooperation before proceeding with Bears on Patrol.

"I think anything we can use or do to help ease the tension for children involved in situations such as family violence is very beneficial," Cpl. Richard Greer with Hopkins County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday. "This is something that has been done on occasion in the past. I think this is something that can make a difference."

"The bears are something the kids can grab onto and hold. I think it’s a good tool that we can and will implement to help," said Sulphur Spring Police Chief Jim Bayuk.

DPS Sgt. Tony McCollum also noted Bears on Patrol to be a worthwhile program which will provide troopers from his department an additional resource to assist children in situations such as motor vehicle accidents.

Not only does Bears on Patrol benefit traumatized children, but it also provides an outlet by which local scouts can help other children in times of need and disaster.

Donations of bears may be made at the sites noted above. Checks for monetary donations, which are tax deductible, to purchase bears may also be addressed to Troop 69 and mailed to the scouts at 1107 Interstate 30 East, Sulphur Springs, TX 75482. Donations from wholesale vendors will also be accepted.

For further information about the program, call Kathie Gentry at 903-243-1540 or Paula Hammond at 903-885-4932.

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