Beaverton Valley Times
Written by Shannon O. Wells
August 14, 2013 - When it was time to celebrate her sixth birthday on Aug. 3, Giselle Ditchfield knew exactly what she wanted from the 30 friends she invited: stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes.
What’s unusual is she didn’t want the soft, furry creatures for herself. Giselle wanted them to be available for other children who needed comfort during a traumatic situation. After firefighters assisted Jackson, her 2-year-old brother who suffered from a severe case of the croup last spring, Giselle told her parents Valerie and Rod she’d like to donate the animals to her neighborhood Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Station 68.
On Tuesday afternoon, Giselle brought her cache of 25 stuffed animals — among them a ladybug Pillow Pet, Kermit the Frog, a kangaroo and a monkey — to Station 68 on Southwest 147th Place. A cadre of five firefighters, led by Captain Larry Pfeiffer, warmly greeted the Ditchfield family. They accepted the girl’s two shopping bags full of stuffed animals before giving Giselle — soon to be a first-grader at Jacob Wismer Elementary School — the grand tour of the homey, one-story fire station and a ride in the 15-ton Pierce fire engine.
“You’ve got some pretty good friends, huh?” said Zach Wiens, an operator/engineer at Station 68, complimenting Giselle on her and her playmates’ generosity.
Firefighter Levi McCubbins explained how the infusion of stuffed animals would augment the comfort toys the station provides to children during emergency calls.
“We’re going to put these on different fire engines,” he said. “These are going to help kids in a lot of different places.”
Giselle recalled the scary night her brother, who had come down with the croup three times before, was so sick his parents called 911 for TVF&R’s assistance. Jackson, who was having trouble breathing, was transported by ambulance around midnight to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center on Southwest Barnes Road.
“My brother had to go to the hospital, so they came to our house,” said the shy, quiet Giselle after a little of her mom’s prompting. “When the kids go to the hospital in an ambulance, they’re scared, so they give them stuffed animals. My friends brought stuffed animals for my birthday,” she added.
Alisa Cour, TVF&R’s public affairs officer, said stuffed animals and toys are a longstanding tool in the emergency response district’s arsenal.
“Our firefighters carry stuffed animals on their rigs to give to children during fires, motor vehicle accidents and other traumatic experiences,” Cour said. “It might sound simple, but a stuffed animal can act as a security blanket and make kids feel a little better during a hard time.”
Valerie Ditchfield said Giselle’s idea likely came about after she realized her brother, who’s since bounced back just fine from his illness, didn’t have a stuffed animal the day he was taken to the hospital.
“Maybe they didn’t have any animals (around) that day,” Valerie said. “(Giselle) asked me why Jackson didn’t get one.”
When she shared her idea for a group donation with the help of her friends, Valerie was blown away by the gesture.
“I was very, very proud of her,” she said.
After making her donation, Giselle was all smiles as she got a tour of the fire engine and took a breif ride up Station 68’s driveway — including a short, but piercing demonstration of the siren. After the ride, she and Jackson took turns shooting off one of the smaller high-pressure firehoses, with both kids successfully toppling an orange pylon placed about 10 feet away.
Capt. Pfeiffer praised Giselle for her generosity sparked by her brother’s moment of need.
“Anything to distract from what’s making someone sick or upset is a big help,” he said of the stuffed animals.
Rod Ditchfield said Giselle’s donation idea is simply an extension of her personality.
“She’s been looking forward to her sixth birthday for awhile,” he said. “She wanted to have a party at our house and have everyone bring (stuffed) bears. She likes helping others.”