We are happy to keep bringing you Hugs Across America news, highlight activities of our volunteers and create a fun place for our visitors, supporters and friends of our mission.
Although Hurricane Ike did not seem to be as distructive as anticipated, the aftermath continues to devastate thousands upon thousands who are not able to return home. Many are not even certain that home will still exist and others who survived the storm remain without electricity and water while basic supplies are running out. Hugs Across America Chapters have stepped up to help by providing teddy bears for children staying in church shelters throughout Houston, Brazoria and Passadena, Texas. The United Way of Montgomery County, Texas will take teddies with them as they go door to door answering calls for help. Our Oklahoma, Kelsey Briggs Chapter of Hugs, led by Jamie Gallimore and Loretha Sweetin, the Woodmen of the World Chapter in Georgia, led by Ted Church and the nationl headquarters have worked particularly hard getting teddies ready to meet the need tagged and ready for Ike shelters...more to come!
Hurricane Gustav hit the coast of Louisiana with category 3 winds in excess of 120 mph, pouring rain of possibly 12", flooding local rivers and testing newly constructed levees. Although it did not appear to be "the big one", it certainly wrecked havoc with the lives of those living in it's path. Shelters from New Orleans to Baton Ruge to Ruston to Houston were full to overflowing with the approximately 2 million people leaving the vulnerable coast. The national Hugs office in NY and three local Hugs chapters, stepped up to provide hundreds upon hundreds of teddies for shelters in need. Jakki Hatchett, the leader of "Jacob's Hugs" in Minden, Louisiana, took the chapter bears as well as National's bears to shelters in Shreveport, Joni Mabry of "Lagniappe Hugs" ( a Creole word meaning, "a little extra" ) in Ruston, Louisiana took her several hundred teddies to Trinity Church, Emmanuel Church shelter and the Civic Center of Ruston where shelters were readied, and Ted Church, of the Woodmen of the World Disaster Team, in Conyers, Georgia, added teddies to the disaster team trucks as they rode to the hardest hit areas of the storm. Though we are learning to prepare more effectively for hurricanes, we can not make the fear just go away ...and in the eyes of a child, a welcoming teddy hug, makes the difference. Waiting for a bed in a safe shelter while the storm rages, can be a scarey thing for the whole family. A huge "thank you" to all those who helped this volunteer effort!
Joni Mabry makes sure that the kids at Emmanuel Baptist Church shelter have a special teddy to hug while their cots are readied.
500 teddies from Hugs Across America just joined the Navy to assist in a good will mission bringing medical assisstance and comfort to needy families in Latin America and the Caribbean. Two U.S. Navy amphibious ships have been involved with project "Continuing Promise", providing health care and other relief services to nine Latin American and Caribbean nations during this humanitarian and civic assistance mission. Continuing Promise offers valuable training to U.S. military personnel while promoting partnerships and goodwill. USS Boxer (LHD 4) wrapped up the first phase in June after its embarked medical and engineering crews worked with partner nations to provide services in three countries. Beginning in August, USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) will conduct the second phase, bringing care to six nations during a five-month deployment. Commodore of the deployment, Captain Frank Ponds, will provide information for those who wish to follow the Navy Ship's progress.
Fifteen teenaged Summer Campers and staff from the "At Last" Summer Camp in Port Washington, New York, helped Hugs bag, tag, and sort teddies during the months of July and August. The program's goal is to provide youngsters with an opportunity to give community service in the greater Metropolitan area and we were delighted that they chose Hugs. The teenagers had a wonderful time and were very productive in their efforts. Bears were readied for hospitals, Family Court, deploying soldiers and the USS Kearsage Naval Hospital Ship. Our thanks to Jackie Liu, a Hugs Assistant, who supervisied and assisted the campers.
The tornado that ripped through the Little Sioux Scout Ranch showed the boys and their leaders, who have spent their young lives learning about the outdoors, just how fierce Mother Nature can be. Earlier in the week, the scouts drilled on what to do before, during and after a tornado. So Wednesday night, when the clouds had parted and the chaos had passed, the Scouts took count of each other, just as they had practiced. Many showed their bravery as well as their training. Inspite of their own injuries, scouts lifted bricks and debris from others, created tourniquets to stop bleeding and eased their fellows pain until rescuers could arrive.
Forty-eight children and adults were taken to the Burggess Hospital Emergency Room in nearby Onawa, Iowa, for triage...as they, too, had recently practiced. Several of the youngsters remained in the hospital. Hugs bears are there as well ... 50 teddies will be huggable companions to the scouts as they recount their trauma and grieve their loss. Four Scouts died: Aaron Eilerts, 14, of Eagle Grove, Iowa, and Josh Fennen, 13, Sam Thomsen, 13, and Ben Petrzilka, 14, all of Omaha, Neb. Our prayers are with them all.