Having to take a ride in the back of an ambulance can be a scary experience for adults, let alone children.
However, kids who have to be transported to hospital by Island EMS may now feel a little more comfortable.
Paramedics will be giving out stuffed animals when responding to incidents involving kids after a year’s worth supply of “Kozy Kats” were donated to Island EMS on the weekend.
Darcy Clinton, of Island EMS, said while having the toy can comfort children it also helps paramedics attend to them.
“You take a situation that’s very stressful for a child and give them something that’s warm and friendly, it might calm them down enough for us to be able to do a procedure,” he said.
Teressa Peters was one of the parents who fundraised to buy the initial 66 Kozy Kats presented to Island EMS on Saturday.
Peters said she became interested in the initiative after a friend and daughter were involved in a car accident last November.
Her friend had shared a story about how much it meant that her daughter was given a stuffed animal for comfort.
Initially under the impression the toy was given to the young girl by paramedics, Peters shared the story with Island EMS.
“It just really meant a lot to me to know if he (Peters’ son Colby) ever had to be in an ambulance, he would be given something to comfort him,” she said. “It would make a huge difference.”
However, it turned out that Island EMS did not carry stuffed animals and that the toy actually came from hospital staff.
“I said how do we change that,” said Peters, who soon after got several friends to form a fundraising group.
Along with Island EMS, the group began efforts which included selling items at the North River Flea Market, Easter basket tickets at an Island storm game and collecting cash donations from businesses and individuals.
The toys, which cost $14 each, are the only approved stuffed animal for Island EMS since they have no buttons, zippers and are hypoallergenic.
They also have a heating pad inside that can be warmed up, cooled down, or taken out so the toy can be used as a puppet.
“We’ve had teddy bears donated from the public before but we always had to be so careful of what we put out,” said paramedic Mike MacKenzie. “There couldn’t be any extra tags or zippers, or eyes that could pop out of them.”
MacKenzie had actually begun looking for a stuffed animal that fit the company’s requirements about a year ago.
He was then contacted by Peters shortly after Christmas.
“It’s gone like a wildfire since then, all the preparation of trying to get the right bear and right item… for them to give us that extra push, it was really special,” he said.
While firefighters on P.E.I. supply stuffed Dalmatians to children, Peters has also been in contact with the emergency measures office and police about offering the toys.
“If they do (need stuffed animals) we would fundraise for them,” she said. “Any first responder across the Island who, if they feel this would help them with children, whether it’s ground search and rescue or anything, they can certainly contact us and we would supply them with whatever they need.”
Peters said fundraising efforts will also continue to ensure ambulances always have a supply on demand.
More information on the initiative can be found by contacting Peters at (902) 367-9974 or tlpeters2010@gmail or Clinton at (902) 370-4004.