A Whitehorse woman is compiling care packages for children who have suffered abuse, trauma, illness or sudden loss.
“When a child knows there’s some random bit of kindness out there in their confused year, it can go a long way,” said Kimberly Armstrong.
Armstrong’s new initiative, Glimmer of Hope, will distribute care packages to children who have recently undergone a traumatic event.
The packages include stuffed animals, games, books or snacks — items that provide comfort and distraction. Armstrong will dispense the gifts to individual families and to first responders, who can give them directly to kids at the scene of an incident.
Armstrong launched Glimmer of Hope about three weeks ago, and has already seen a positive response.
“People have been donating clothes, books, toys and recycling; the support I’m feeling is overwhelming, it’s incredible,” Armstrong said.
She has already received offers of help to launch her campaign as a non-profit, which will help her enlist local businesses as donors. She has already received donations from the UPS Store and the Yukon Dental Children’s program. In the meantime, she’s mainly relying on donations from the community and has received about 40 so far, with some young benefactors.
“Some children have donated money, one child donated a brand new Nerf gun,” Armstrong said.
“Kids were seeing this and saying, ‘Hey, I want to help with this.’”
Armstrong is seeking donations of colouring books, activity books, mini-games, pet treats, snacks, juice boxes, vacuum seal bags, DVDs, baby wipes, food and formula.
Glimmer of Hope is also accepting monetary donations, and the campaign will be registered at Raven Recycling and P&M Recycling. Yukoners dropping refundables can request the funds go directly to Armstrong’s cause.
Each care package will be different according to the needs of the child, Armstrong explained. She has already sent out a few of the care packages, thanks to individuals and social workers who have reached out requesting them.
To ensure the packages are COVID-safe, Armstrong sanitizes and vacuum seals all of the donations. The items are only removed from the vacuum sealing immediately before they’re gifted to families.
“So, families have peace of mind that what their children are getting is safe for them,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong is currently studying social work at Yukon University and hopes the initiative will help fill a gap of care in the territory.
“I would love to see more resources for children,” Armstrong said.
“It is growing, but back in the fall I started studying social work because I want to go in and work with these children, and get them the resources.”
Armstrong noted that resources exist for kids, if one knows where to look. The resources available aren’t always sufficient, however, and things like counselling often have long waitlists.
Armstrong was inspired to start Glimmer of Hope because she saw similar initiatives working in other cities.
“I realized we don’t have anything like that,” Armstrong said. “Police and EMTs carry stuffed animals, but that’s about it.”
She said she first recognized the impact of care packages when a young family member underwent a traumatic event, and a small gift was provided to the child.
“That made a tremendous difference, a little bit of kindness can go a long way towards helping and healing,” Armstrong said.
While she has been collecting donations over the last month, Armstrong thinks Glimmer of Hope will see a bigger start in the new year. It’ll be easier to broadcast the service after Christmas when the numerous seasonal charity campaigns have ceased.
Armstrong is focusing Glimmer of Hope on Whitehorse for the moment but envisions also providing gifts to kids in the communities as the organization grows.
Her next step is striking an agreement with firefighters and EMTs, so they can carry the packages to children at an incident. She says she’s reached out to those organizations but hasn’t yet received a response, assumedly because it’s such a busy season for community service.
Whitehorse Fire Chief Jason Everitt told the News that the fire department would gladly discuss an arrangement with Glimmer of Hope.
Firefighters already carry trauma bears for exactly that purpose, and Everitt can attest to their positive impact.
“These bears or stuffed toys provide some measure of comfort, so we’ve implemented that on our trucks already,” Everitt said.
The fire chief said he would be happy to see additional community support to augment the teddy bear program already in place, especially as the supply they have dwindles over time.
When a child is at the scene of a fire or accident, the experience can be frightening for kids and their families alike. A small toy or gift is helpful for calming a child, Everitt explained.
“Sometimes just having a toy or distraction they can focus on, squeeze and hug helps take that edge off,” Everitt said.
“Especially when we’re dealing with a significant structure fire, maybe most of their toys are lost or contaminated and they can’t have access to them, so that fills that gap in the meantime.”
Although the gift can’t replace a child’s lost possessions, they still provide a measure of comfort.
“We’ve used (teddy bears) for years in the fire service and have seen tremendous results, it really helps the young children try and refocus their grief on something else,” Everitt said.
“It gives them that connection and peace at that moment, that’s what we’re trying to achieve.”
The fire department would work with Armstrong on what types of care packages would work. Everitt noted that the packages couldn’t be too large to fit in the truck, as there’s limited space, and couldn’t include any hazardous materials.
“I think that initiative from the community is what makes this resiliency so important, having community members caring about other ones, and if they have the ability to provide some of that in advance that’s a great opportunity to look at,” Everitt said.
“I’ve seen it work in other jurisdictions and it has an immediate, profound effect –– a small measure like that goes a long way.”
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org