‘Hoo’ appeared before the Taylorsville City Council? Two dozen ‘Ollie Owls’
Two dozen “Ollie Owl” stuffed animals were recently donated to police and fire agencies serving Taylorsville. (Ruth Jacobson)
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One of the most gut-wrenching challenges a police officer or firefighter routinely faces is to calm a traumatized child. Kids who are near to—or involved in—home burglaries, car accidents or house fires are often so upset there’s almost nothing a trained professional can do to console them.
But often, a stuffed animal can.
Avon Products Inc. is continuing a tradition this year of encouraging customers to purchase and donate “comfort” stuffed animals. Company officials say thousands of plush, stuffed animal toys are donated each year in Utah alone. The tradition has been around for decades. Each year it’s a different type of animal, all with the same purpose.
This time around, Avon—a makeup, jewelry and fashion company that’s been around since 1886—selected a stuffed owl, named “Ollie,” for its comfort donations. Recently Unified Police and Unified Fire officials in Taylorsville accepted several of them from two different area Avon representatives.
“It’s really amazing how quickly some children begin to calm down after receiving one of these stuffed animals” Unified Police Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant said. “Our officers carry them (in their patrol vehicles) for those times when nothing else is better for an upset child.”
One Avon representative who works out of her Taylorsville home learned firsthand how important the stuffed animals can be at just the right time.
“I was involved in a three-car crash at an intersection three years ago while driving my daughter,” Sara Fitzgerald said. “Neither of us was seriously injured, but Savanna (age 7 at the time) was so upset. When the responding police officer, a woman, gave her a stuffed animal, she immediately began to calm down.”
Fitzgerald said there were a total of three children in the vehicles, and each received a comfort toy.
“I felt so touched by what she did for my daughter—I began to cry,” Fitzgerald added. “She genuinely seemed to care about all the kids involved in the accident. It certainly helped Savanna begin to feel better more quickly.”
A lifelong Taylorsville resident, Fitzgerald had already been an Avon representative four years when the accident occurred. She was aware of the stuffed animal program, but said she hadn’t really given it much thought.
“I never really began to explain the program to my customers until I saw what an impact the toys can have,” she said. “Now I know what a difference they can make, and I enjoy telling people about them.”
Sara and Savanna Fitzgerald recently dropped 30 of the stuffed animals off at the Taylorsville Police offices. While she was there, Savanna toured the station, looked through a law enforcement vehicle and received a police tee shirt and “badge.”
“(The officers and staff) were all so nice to her,” Fitzgerald added. “It was nice for (Savanna) to get the chance to meet with them in a less stressful situation.”
Not long after the Fitzgeralds presented their donation, another Avon representative—Pat Long, of Kearns—also donated 24 Ollie Owls to Taylorsville-based emergency responders.
“My customers look forward to making the stuffed animal donations every year,” Long said. “I know other (Avon) sales reps have donated the toys to Primary Children’s Hospital, women’s shelters, the Christmas Box House and other places.”
Avon representatives sell the plush toys for $10. Company policy requires customers to purchase at least two of the stuffed animals, if they want to keep one for themselves.
Pat Long’s Avon assistant—Ruth Jacobson, also of Taylorsville—delivered the stuffed animals at a recent city council meeting.
“We are very grateful for what Avon and many other groups do to provide the stuffed animals,” Unified Fire Authority Battalion Chief Jay Ziolkowski said. “Fire is a scary thing for kids to be around. But we’ve found those who are upset often respond well to (the stuffed animals).”
Police Chief Wyant added, “We aren’t soliciting any more donations. We have many organizations that help keep us well supplied with them.”
Fitzgerald said, “After seeing the impact the stuffed animal had on my daughter, the (Taylorsville Police Precinct) can expect to continue receiving them from my customers as long as I’m working with Avon.”