“Will my children remember me?”
That’s just one of the concerns military fathers have as they leave their young children for extended periods of time. Thanks to a partnership with the American Red Cross, children of the deployed 5th Marines Divisions, have a resounding “yes” to this question.
After two California wildfire evacuations for Camp Pendleton in California, the flames were extinguished and the families returned home to a very special gift from the Red Cross. Bobby Ellison-Peck, Services to Armed Forces program manager, coordinates the Hug-A-Hero program with the support of military Family Readiness Coordinators. A full-length photograph is taken of each Mom or Dad and reproduced on a custom-made doll. The foot-high stuffed dolls also have words of encouragement such as “I Love You!” Tears of joy ran down the cheeks of moms after their child received the dolls. Many of the kids squealed with delight, “Daddy! Daddy!”
“It’s not just for the kids, it’s also for me’” stated Melissa Rooks, who is also the Family Resilience Coordinator. “To be honest, I give him a squeeze and kiss too.”
Rooks’ son Zachary received a Hug-A-Hero Doll five-years ago. He still keeps it close to him day and night. “Through facial recognition, he remains physically and emotionally attached. It’s so much more powerful than a doll,” concludes Rooks.
The program is spearheaded by the Red Cross with funding from a Walmart grant. This is one program to help families and military members before, during and after deployments. Learn more about our support of military members and Veterans.