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American Red Cross volunteer Mar Tobiason presents Hug-A-Hero dolls to the Blankenship family. Lillie (3 ½) and Hallie (2) along with their mother Katherine Blankenship were delighted with tears of joy. Photo courtesy of: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross Volunteer

Real Heroes Breakfast Aboard the U.S.S. Midway

San Diego CA– Today, Friday, October 3, the San Diego/Imperial Counties American Red Cross will be hosting its annual Real Heroes Breakfast on the U.S.S Midway. Walmart is a proud sponsor of this event.

“Will my children remember me?”

That’s just one of the concerns military fathers have as they leave their young children for extended periods of time. Thanks to a partnership with the American Red Cross, children of the deployed 5th Marines Divisions, have a resounding “yes” to this question.

After two California wildfire evacuations for Camp Pendleton in California, the flames were extinguished and the families returned home to a very special gift from the Red Cross. Bobby Ellison-Peck, Service to the Armed Forces program manager, coordinates the Hug-A-Hero program with the support of military Family Readiness Coordinators. A full-length photograph is taken of each Mom or Dad and reproduced on a custom-made doll. The foot-high stuffed dolls also have words of encouragement such as “I Love You!” Tears of joy ran down the cheeks of moms after their child received the dolls. Many of the kids squealed with delight, “Daddy! Daddy!”

American Red Cross Services to Armed Forces Coordinator Bob Ellison-Peck, was supported at the Camp Pendleton, San Diego, California Hug-A-Hero distribution by Barbara Behling (left) and Mar Tobiason (right)  Photo courtesy of: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross Volunteer

American Red Cross Services to Armed Forces Coordinator Bob Ellison-Peck, was supported at the Camp Pendleton, San Diego, California Hug-A-Hero distribution by Barbara Behling (left) and Mar Tobiason (right)
Photo courtesy of: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross Volunteer

“It’s not just for the kids, it’s also for ‘me’” stated Melissa Rooks, who is also the Family Resilience Coordinator. “To be honest, I give him a squeeze and kiss too.” Melissa’s son Zachary received a Hug-A-Hero Doll five-years ago. He still keeps it close to him day and night. “Through facial recognition, he remains physically and emotionally attached. It’s so much more powerful than a doll,” concludes Melissa.

The program is spearheaded by the Red Cross with funding from a Walmart grant. This is one program to help families and military members before, during and after deployments. To learn more about our support of military members and Veterans, please visit http://www.redcross.org.

As part of Walmart’s ongoing commitment to veterans, Walmart has made the promise to offer a job to any honorably discharged veteran within his or her first 12 months off active duty. Walmart committed to hiring more than 100,000 veterans over five years and is already more than half way there, with more than 58,000 veterans already hired.

Additionally, Walmart provides ongoing funding to support the San Diego/Imperial Counties America Red Cross. One of the program’s Walmart supports is the Hug-A-Hero Doll Program. Hug-a-Hero dolls feature the head-to-toe photograph of the recipient’s parent or loved one as well as a personalized message. These dolls are provided at no cost and offer comfort in times of distress and an opportunity for a child to tell the story of his/her hero. Walmart managers and associates have been proud to work with the Red Cross in signing-up military members who are preparing for deployment for the program, as well as handing out the dolls to the children of deploying military members.