CHIPPERS TO CHEER UP CHILDREN : CHP TO HAND OUT TOYS AT SCENES OF CRASHES.
The California Highway Patrol will be handing out a little extra something on the road. Not tickets, but a cuddly stuffed animal named Chipper to help comfort traumatized children involved in crashes.
The CHP announced a new program Wednesday that has patrol officers distributing 14,000 of the fuzzy chipmunks - all of them decked out in full CHP garb.
The statewide Precious Cargo program, funded with $105,000 donated by the San Mateo-based California Casualty Group insurance company and created jointly by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and the CHP, is designed to soothe traumatized children involved in traffic crashes.
``One of the purposes of this is to lessen the fear and suffering of these young folks,'' said Sgt. Ernie Garcia, spokesman for the Los Angeles County CHP headquarters. ``We believe this doll can help a child cope with the stress that he or she may be feeling at the accident scene.''
According to CHP statistics, in 1995 there were 216 children ages 9 and younger who were killed in traffic accidents in California. An additional 18,753 in the same age group were injured.
``Behind every statistic there is a face and the trauma lasts a very long time - we want to lessen it,'' Garcia said. ``Other than taking care of the seriously injured we often have to cope with family members or friends of some of the victims - a lot of these are youngsters.''
CHP officers, who will be allotted two Chippers per patrol car, will distribute the stuffed animal at their own discretion, Garcia said.
Although the CHP has held toy drives in the past and collected gifts to pass out to distressed children, this is the first organized effort to provide a standard stuffed animal to kids, according to Garcia.
The CHP will distribute the 14-inch-tall Chippers until the supply is depleted, but the organization is counting on additional corporate sponsors to step forward with more funds to continue the program.
Those interested in helping can call the California Association of Highway Patrolmen at (916) 452-6751.
PHOTO Highway Patrol Officers Rob Lund, left, and Pablo Torres display a trunk full of Chippers, a stuffed animal that will be given to traumatized children.
Hans Gutknecht/Daily News