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Law enforcement delivers 'bear hugs' for kids

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POSTED: February 15, 2010 10:00 a.m.
Photo by Jen Alexander McCall/

DA Tom Durden, Dawn DeLoach, Jeanie Johanson and Bruce DeLoach pose at Gabriel's House with a pile of donated stuffed animals.

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There is likely nothing more comforting to a child facing a crisis than a squeezable, lovable, huggable teddy bear. That is the thought behind the “Bearable Hugs for Georgia’s Children” campaign, coordinated by the Division of Child Support Services and the Fatherhood Program.
The statewide campaign started Jan. 12 when organizers began accepting donated stuffed animals from area residents and businesses.
On Thursday, boxes of furry toys were delivered to Gabriel’s House, the Liberty County Department of Family and Children Services and to the Georgia State Patrol office.
Helping to distribute the cuddly bears were Child Support Services Director Dawn DeLoach, Atlantic Judicial District Attorney Tom Durden, Child Support Enforcement Agent Jeanie Johanson and GSP Trooper Sgt. Bruce DeLoach, representing post 11 and troop I.
“We are delivering some teddy bears and other things to children who have been the victims of crimes,” Durden said at the group’s first stop at Gabriel’s House in Hinesville. “We hope it will help in easing their pain and bring them a little comfort.”
Durden said DeLoach put the call out at his office to start the collection of new and gently used bears and toys, and donations flooded in.
“The Fatherhood Program through the Division of Child Support Services actually coordinated the effort and asked each child support office within the state of Georgia to participate in the campaign,” DeLoach said. “We knew that there are many children out there who have a traumatic situation and they might need some comfort and this was a way we could give back to the community.”
DeLoach said the local Atlantic Judicial Circuit Office and their child support office collected 135 “bearable hugs” to distribute in the community.
Some of the bears were given to GSP Trooper Sgt. Bruce DeLoach, which he will parcel out among the troopers of post 11.
 “We used to have the buddy bear program back in the late ‘90s,” DeLoach said. “And when the funding ran out, the bears ran out. This will help in accidents and in times when a parent or someone may be arrested and the child is upset. We’ll be able to help comfort them and make it through the ordeal.”
The first “Bearable Hugs for Georgia’s Children” campaign deliveries actually began Wednesday when Mary Perdue, the first lady of Georgia, teamed up with the DCSS and the Fatherhood Program and dropped off several boxes full of toys at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
DeLoach said organizers estimate about 6,000 bears were distributed throughout the state at various agencies that help and support children.
“They are going to be so excited,” said Gabriel’s House Assistant Director Wendy Dunwody.
Gabriel House currently houses 14 children. They serve clients from infancy through age 18.
“To just have something in their room, to give them a little comfort,” Dunwody said. “We’ll probably plan to place them on their beds so when they get home they have a little surprise. I’m sure they’ll all be grateful for the generous donation. It’s nice to have something to cuddle when the mom or dad is absent.”
DeLoach said her group plans to make the campaign a yearly event, and she’d like to reach out to more local agencies.
“We hope to encompass various children’s organizations within the Atlantic Judicial Circuit,” she said.
 

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