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Handmade blankets wrap kids in comfort during tragedies

Gresham-Barlow employees donate goods for children in distress
by: Jim Clark Gresham Traffic Officer David Snider holds  one of the bear and blanket gifts donated by the administrative staff of the Gresham-Barlow School District on Friday, Dec. 23.

Fifty-five handmade blankets and coordinating stuffed animals will bring comfort and joy to local traumatized children in the coming year.

Employees for the Gresham-Barlow School District donated the blankets and stuffed animals to the Gresham Police Department on Friday, Dec. 13, after adopting the department for Christmas.

Every year, administrative staffers adopt a local charity or cause for the holiday season. This year, they chose to give toys and food to the Boring Fire Department, which passes them on to needy families, and the Gresham Police Department, whose officers give teddy bears and blankets to upset children they encounter as part of their jobs.

For more than 20 years, officers have taken part in the 'Buddy Bear Program,' in which the community donates stuffed animals that officers hand out to children frightened by traumas ranging from a car accident to a family disturbance.

A few years ago, two police records employees noted how comforting a special blanket can be. The observation inspired city staffers to make blankets to accompany those stuffed animals.

District administrative staffer Lisa Snider said the decision to craft blankets, pair them with animals and give them to the police department could have been inspired by a story she relayed to her coworkers.

Snider's husband, David, is a Gresham traffic officer. A few months ago, he responded to a crash in which a drunken driver collided with a Chevy Suburban at Northeast Burnside and Hogan roads.

The Suburban's driver was not injured, and neither were his 1-year-old triplet grandsons, who were in the vehicle with him. But one of the babies was crying his eyes out.

Responding officers opened their patrol car trunks and gave two teddy bears with blankets to the calmer boys and a stuffed moose with coordinating blanket to the inconsolable baby.

'As soon as he got the moose, he stopped crying and was fine,' Officer Snider said.

Last month, about 35 members of the Gresham-Barlow School District's administrative staff began buying fleece, shaping it into no-sew blankets and pairing each blanket with a cuddly animal.

'It's been a lot of fun,' Lisa Snider said. 'Everybody's been so excited about it.'

One employee even knitted caps for some of the stuffed animals, caps that are big enough for the child to wear, she said.

Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger is grateful for the kind donation. Officers will tuck them into their trunks, nestled between road flares and first-aid kits, to share with children who may be lost, have just seen a parent arrested or been in a car crash.

'It's tough to put into words the picture on a kid's face when you hand them that bear,' he said. 'It's pretty emotional.'

Providing a cuddly blanket and stuffed animal also 'gives the officers an opportunity to get down and connect with the child, and let them know they care and are there to help,' Junginger said.