Emergency responders launch Toys for Tears program
By Edward Colimore
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — That stuffed animal in the police cruiser doesn't really belong to the officer.
And the toys in the fire trucks and ambulances aren't there to comfort the firefighters or paramedics.
They're there for children who have been traumatized by violence, fire, or loss of a loved one.
Hundreds of stuffed animals have been donated to the emergency responders as part of Camden County's new Toys for Tears program.
The program was announced this month by Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk, Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson, and Catholic Diocese of Camden Msgr. Michael Mannion.
It's intended to supply every vehicle with a stuffed animal "to provide any child in a traumatic situation a moment of comfort," said Sgt. Aida Marcial of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.
The program began in June with the donation of stuffed animals from the Disney Store. That contribution led to Toys for Tears and the expansion of the effort - the first of its kind in the county.
At least 400 stuffed animals were distributed to area emergency personnel at an event this month, and more are being sought as toys are handed out to children.
"This will be an ongoing thing," said Jason Laughlin, a spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office. "Hopefully, there won't be too many occasions when toys have to be given out.
"When they are given out, there will be a need for an immediate replacement, so we need a steady stream of donations."
Toys for Tears is encouraging donations from individuals, school classes, businesses, churches, faith-based organizations, and charity groups, Laughlin said.
All toys must be new and measure no longer than 12 inches. They can be dropped off at Mary Queen of All Saints parish, 4824 Camden Ave., Pennsauken. For more information, call Marcial at 856-225-8400 or Mannion at 856-662-5008. Financial donations also are welcomed.