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Local Girl Scout collects 2,500 stuffed animals to help comfort children during traumatic events

FLORENCE, Ala. - A Florence teen is going to Washington at the end of the month. She's being honored for her volunteer service. While it's nice to be recognized, it's not the reason behind what she does.

Thumbing through a small book of photos, 13-year-old Katherine Huggins said, “This is us presenting our idea to the fire board.” She’s a giver. “I just thought it would do good,” she said. That’s what Girl Scouts do.

Katherine and fellow scout Keira Jenkins collected new and slightly used stuffed animals. She smiled and said, “A living room full!” The number was close to 2,500. “We had some Girl Scouts from Kentucky donate,” Katherine said.

They got them from friends, yard sales and thrift stores. There were enough to fill more than two dozen plastic bins.

“We filled them up and labeled them and we delivered them to volunteer fire departments all over Lauderdale County,” she said.

The idea behind the Tender Hearts project was to make kids feel better. “Yeah, like a comfort item,” Katherine added. It’s something to take their mind off a bad situation. “They get something to hold onto, something to get their mind off the traumatic event that’s happening,” she said.

Lauderdale County firefighters from 14 different departments now have a little company in their trucks when they roll on emergency calls.

“It’s something that we need. It’s something that is a huge help,” Killen firefight Brandon Speth told us. “When we have incidents where we have children on scene, it’s nice to be able to give them these and help console then and calm them down in situations where we need them calm.”

It’s something Katherine has done before. “I donated some of my old stuffed animals to the city police department and the city fire department,” she told us. While most kids want to keep their stuffed animals, she was willing to give hers away. “I kinda had a little much,” she said. “And I was like some other people might need them more than I need all of them.”

And the ones that were too big to fit in the bins found a home too. “We donated those to our local library for their kid’s section,” Katherine said. It’s a very unselfish act for a teen. “An 8th-grade student to step up to the plate and do something like this,” Brandon Speth said. “She’s not only helping the firefighters but she’s helping hundreds of kids throughout our community.:

Katherine is one of two Alabama honorees in the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The program honors students in grades 5 through 12 for outstanding volunteer service. Katherine and 101 other state honorees each received one thousand dollars, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense paid trip to our nation’s capital. Ten students will be named "America's Top Youth Volunteers of 2018." Good luck Katherine. We'll be pulling for you.