MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A retired sergeant from the New York State Department of Corrections now spends his days here in Myrtle Beach, running an organization called "Helping Children During Tough Times."
Tom Hopkins collects what he calls "lovingly used" stuffed animals, and donates them to local police and fire stations to be given to children to comfort them. He is assisted by his 5-year-old and 3-year-old granddaughters, who help with the donations and sorting.
"I know that children, through no fault of their own, find themselves scared and frightened, and if a little bitty teddy bear, a little fluffy teddy bear can make their day a little bit easier, that's my job," Hopkins said.
He started only a month ago in May and has since donated over 350 stuffed animals. The first responders hand out the stuffed animals to children they encounter while on calls, hoping to soothe them during stressful situations.
Hopkins has seen first hand how far a simple gesture like this can go to develop trust between the officers, firefighters, and children.
"One of the officers was telling me that they didn't have anything to give to the children at that big fire over there in Carolina Forest. That broke my heart, cause I have them, I didn't know. So I said that won't happen again," he said.
If you have stuffed animals that are gently used, Hopkins encourages you to donate them. He will meet you to pick them up.