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Moose has comforting mission

October 12, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - Glenn Fuscsick said he remembers an accident on Interstate 70 a few years ago when two parents had to be flown by helicopter to a Baltimore hospital for treatment of serious injuries.

"Several young children were taken to Washington County Hospital - separated from their parents and very frightened," said Fuscsick, deputy chief of the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.

The firefighters had little bears that they carried for such occasions. Having something to hug in a bad situation often can calm a child more than all the medical training and attention in the world.

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So when Fuscsick learned that Funkstown Moose Lodge 2435 on Alt. U.S. 40 was launching a program to put "Tommy Moose" stuffed animals in Washington County Sheriff's Department cruisers and in fire company apparatus in Funkstown, he was excited.

"It really helps to redirect the focus of people who have been in accidents or in other situations," Fuscsick said. "It gives them something comforting to hang onto."

A 16-year veteran with the fire service, Fuscsick said many times the people traveling on the interstates aren't from around here, and are unfamiliar with the area and the people.

Mike Stumbaugh, administrative assistant at the 1,711-member Moose Lodge, said the idea has been around for a while. But now a serious effort is being launched to get the program up and running.

"For right now, we have ordered a dozen Tommy Moose stuffed animals for each agency," Stumbaugh said.

But Lt. Randy Wilkinson said he would like to see at least one Tommy Moose in every cruiser and some at headquarters for children who are there during some type of difficulty in their lives.

"I've heard the stories of how handing out these types of stuffed animals has really helped at accidents, child abuse incidents, as well as domestic violence," Wilkinson said.

When Wilkinson was in criminal investigations six years ago, he said he learned from personal experience that a stuffed animal could calm and comfort a child.

Don Howard, interim administrator at the 5-year-old Moose Lodge, said the regional Moose director came up with the idea for the plush Tommy Moose, which is about 10 inches tall, very soft and sports a red sweater that bears his name.

The large felt antlers make it evident that the critter is a moose.

"The funds are coming from our 50/50 activities at the lodge," Howard said. "When the stuffed animals are all handed out, we will have a committee that will order more."

Stumbaugh, who has an extensive rescue and law enforcement history, said he hopes the project will be taken on nationwide within the Moose organization.

The feedback has been positive when a stuffed animal was introduced in a bad situation.

"In that I-70 accident, we got a letter from the parents" thanking the firefighters for the kindness shown to their children, Fuscsick said.

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