AMES, Iowa--Iowans looking for service projects for Make a Difference Day may want to consider Operation Give a Hug, which has been unable to keep pace with the growing demand for Give a Hug dolls for children of deployed military parents, according to Chris Gleason, program coordinator with Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development and director of Operation Military Kids for 4-H.
Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of helping others, is Saturday, Oct. 27, 2007.
Operation Give a Hug is a nonprofit, all-volunteer program established in 2004 to help comfort military children by giving them special dolls, often called “daddy dolls.” Each doll has a photo-sleeve face so a child can insert a photo of the deployed parent; this provides the child a tangible way to relate to the parent he or she misses so much, Gleason said.
Requests for dolls jumped in August 2007, when Operation Give a Hug was added to the America Supports You Web site and featured in a military.com article. Through this exposure, caregivers of children who need comforting learned about Operation Give a Hug and began requesting dolls. Currently, the requests far outnumber the donations.
“In Iowa, we have been fortunate to receive donations for Operation Give a Hug dolls, and have given away more than 400. But the program is in desperate need of money to fill requests coming in from military families around the country,” Gleason said. Currently there are requests for children from nearly 100 units including Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard.
Everyone can participate -- schools, churches, 4-H clubs and other community organizations -- in Make a Difference Day, Gleason said. An elementary school in Macomb, Mich., conducted a one-week coin drive and raised enough money for 200 dolls. A church in Seward, Neb., collected a special offering, which helped provide 150 dolls.
Operation Give a Hug is a sponsored program of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Tacoma Foundation, a 501-c-3 organization. For more information, call (253) 691-9391, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.operationgiveahug.org/.