Providing hope amid devastation
When Emmy Blue thinks about Hurricane Harvey and the thousands of Houstonians who fled from their homes amid calamitous flooding, she is reminded of the most trying time of her life. Broke, barred from her Ph.D. program and bundled up in a hut in Irving State Park in Massachusetts, Blue says anger and darkness swarmed her psyche. She was beginning to believe kindness no longer existed in the world. But then, while cooking dinner over a fire, she spotted a seemingly mysterious, fuzzy creature through the trees. Though the creature turned out to be a cat, the occurrence sparked her creativity and reinvigorated her spirit. Soon after, she earned a storytelling gig and eventually started an interactive program based around an imaginary creature called the Squatchie. Once shackled to a lowly park maintenance job, she turned her passion — helping children in need — into a profession. And last month, she started a drive to help children in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey find a similar glimmer of happiness amid the devastation. With the help of drop-off sites such as Fancy That, Upper Westside Play Gym, Kids Klubhouse and Moonlight Coffeehouse, Blue collected gifts such as arts and crafts, letters and activities, as well as blankets and personal hygiene tools for kids in Houston foster care shelters. She will also send them her book "Who is the Squatchie" and a
"magical" stone. In a partnership with the YMCA, supplies will also go to children and their teachers who lost their homes in the floods caused by the hurricane. As a child, Blue says she loved going to the YMCA to have fun and escape from her problems. Now, she still has a soft spot for the organization and wanted to help their relief effort in Texas. "The YMCA is going into shelters, setting up fun stations for kids. They realize kids need to play and need to have fun. They are doing great work down there. I personally love the YMCA," Blue said.
The Emmy Blue and the Squatchie program also raised donations for victims of the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge, and Blue personally drove to Corbett to deliver Gatorade, meal replacements and other supplies to firefighters and those displaced by the blaze. She also plans to visit with schools in Corbett to tell the story of the Squatchie. Blue says she received a sharp uptick in donations during the week the Eagle Creek Fire spiraled out of control. "The more tragedy that's happening," she said, "the more people are sensitive to what's happening, and they want to
help in some way." Blue juggles her relief efforts while taking care of two toddlers, continuing her storytelling job and illustrating new Squatchie designs. "It's been a busy three weeks," Blue said in mid-September. Blue also works year-round with foster kids and institutionalized youth, among other groups. "Everyone can connect to that point in your life that you don't feel like you can move on, that your life is devastated or lost forever," Blue said. "Sure enough, you just need that little reminder to wake up that inner magic of that
childlike energy you have and remember it is going to be OK." Though she hasn't decided on a time frame, Blue plans to travel to Houston so that the Squatchie can deliver the gifts to kids in person. She actually has personal ties to the area — some of her family members were rushed from their homes during the flood and later helped to clear waterravaged buildings. Her brother drove down from Dallas to deliver supplies to Houston. Blue says she realizes that practical utilities for survival are the most important donations, but she says the Squatchie-related gifts are im
portant as well. "One of the things the (the Squatchie) likes to do for children is work with their imagination and develop their imagination and help them become more individual and learn how to be happy on their own," Blue said. "This is another thing: Here's a little bag. Somebody's thinking of you. It gives them something to do and it's fun. There's a lot of sadness right now. There's a lot of fear right now. This is just something to put a smile on their face during a hard time." In addition, the familial process of making hand-crafted gifts for those in need can strengthen the givers' sense of empathy. "For me, it's more of an exercise of families coming together, dropping things off to communities, feeling that sense of empowerment that your children are connecting with other children. It's developing a sense of empathy with children, and empathy is a big deal right now in our country," she said. To Blue, the world can be an unforgiving, relentless place. But even through devastation, with a little encouragement from a fuzzy creature, children can find happiness. "The Squatchie is hopefully giving children skills on how to be happy in a tough world," she said. "Sometimes, that's a matter of doing kind acts and being positive." For more information about Blue's programs and how to donate, visit her website at www.emmyblue.com.