PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. (KSAZ) - Capt. Robert Johnson with the Phoenix Fire Department had an important talk with students from Larkspur Elementary School in Paradise Valley on Thursday.
The captain taught students the ABC's of water safety, but he was also there for another important reason; stuffed animals.
"When we go on calls typically without a bear, we would try to comfort a child traumatized by a family member being sick or injured," he said. "If you give them a bear it works a lot better and puts a smile on their face."
Sixth grade teacher Laurie Ryder started the program in honor of her son, a firefighter who knows the need that traumatized family members feel, the need for comfort.
"We've been doing this for 13 years," she said. "A couple of weeks, we start a couple of weeks and student council helps organize it. They put up posters and fliers and go talk at classrooms and talk to them."
On average, the kids have collected about 400 stuffed animals every year.
"We used to have some where every bear was the same, but now, they give us such variety," Capt. Johnson said. "We can look at a kid and say, 'they'll like this one.'"
The firefighters are grateful for the hard work and donations and the kids feel good knowing they're helping comfort someone just like them.