Monday, July 1, 2013

Stuffed Bear Brings Smile After Wildfire

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Fourteen-year-old Katelynn Hughes lost everything in Colorado’s Black Forest wildfire. “My stuff didn’t live,” she says. “All my stuff from my childhood burned. That was sad.”

Katelynn Hughes receives a donated Build-a-Bear from
Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer John Gergen,
Black Forest, Colorado, June 28, 2013.
Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
And so it was a happy surprise for Katelynn when she stopped at a Red Cross bulk distribution site at the main cross roads in the Black Forest. There, John Gergen, a Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer, handed Katelynn a stuffed bear donated from Build-a-Bear.

Gergen has provided disaster mental health services, he says, since before disaster mental health was called disaster mental health. His specialty is working with children.

“Children are resilient, but they can be overwhelmed,” says Gergen. He recommends that parents pay attention to possible signs of stress, such as a child tearing up or not sleeping.

“Getting children back to their normal routines helps reduce stress,” he says.

For Katelynn, regular routines will be disrupted for a long while, but she appears to be doing all right even though going home after the fire was tough.

“It was strange to see my house burned down. But it was cool, she says, to see that some things, like my little sister’s tea set, survived.”

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