By Brianna Kelly, American Red Cross
The challenges faced by military families can be difficult, especially for children in military families. Due to trainings and deployments, military kids often face extended periods of time without their service member parent. To help military families cope with this reality, the American Red Cross Southern California Region offers a special program to bring joy to families in the military community through its Hug-a-Hero Doll program.
This heartwarming program, made possible thanks to donors and coordination between Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and Daddy Doll, Inc., gives military children a way to connect with their parent while they are deployed. As part of the program, units of deploying service members can request Hug-a-Hero Dolls from the Red Cross. These dolls are made in the likeness of deploying service members. Each doll features a photo of the service member on the front, along with an optional message to the service member’s child at the bottom.
Each doll holds great meaning and significance, offering a military child a way to hold their parent tight, even when they are across the world. “Deploying and being separated from your family for six months or more is one of the greatest sacrifices made, and these dolls with photos allow the children to hold and hug their moms and dads while they are away, which comforts them during these difficult times of their lives,” says Jason Brand, Service to the Armed Forces Director for the Red Cross Southern California Region.
The dolls are typically distributed to military families in coordination with the unit’s command. Hug-a-Hero Doll distribution events can be an emotional experience for those involved – an experience filled with gratitude and joy during the often-difficult process leading up to a deployment. “My first Hug-a-Hero event was on Veterans Day and to see the huge smiles on the kids’ faces and see them hold the dolls throughout the entire event was so special and was my favorite day with the Red Cross,” says Brand.
To qualify for a Hug-a-Hero Doll distribution, military units must be deploying for six or more months. The unit’s representatives must coordinate with the Red Cross, who in turn communicates with Daddy Doll, Inc. and authorizes the total number of dolls.
Each year, hundreds of “mommy” and “daddy” Hug-a-Hero Dolls are distributed to local military families. “We recently authorized 100 dolls for one unit,” says Brand. Each doll brings precious comfort and joy to military children.
The Hug-a-Hero Doll program is unique to the American Red Cross Southern California Region and is one of many free Red Cross resources available for military families. Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces proudly serves the military community and helps members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to the challenges of military service.
For more information about the Hug-a-Hero Doll program or to request a Hug-a-Hero Doll distribution, please contact Patricia Perez, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Red Cross services for the military community, visit redcross.org/military.