Helsinki City Rescue Department was in for a surprise on Wednesday when it received an estimated 60,000 soft toys across collection points set up around the city for Helsinki Day.
Rescue officials had appealed to city residents in early June to donate clean and undamaged plush toys — to calm frightened pediatric patients in emergency situations. Thousands of children participated in the drive on Helsinki Day by lining up at collection points to part with their stuffed toys for a good cause.
Officials said they were amazed by the "Teddy Avalanche" in a tweet posted on the Rescue Department’s official account.
"We thought we would receive a thousand toys or something like that," Communications Manager Taisto Hakala told Yle.
He said the initiative was the brainchild of two firefighter-paramedics, who thought it could be a good idea for rescue officials to carry toys that could soothe pediatric patients during emergency situations — if a child falls ill or is injured when a parent is not around, Hakala pointed out.
"Hopefully, the toys will bring comfort to children and give them hope that they will be alright," Hakala added.
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Officials said the plushies will be assessed first before they can be used.
"We cannot circulate soft toys that can pose a danger to kids. We need to inspect them, clean them carefully and double check again before we store the toys, so they remain clean," Hakala explained.
However, the department is now faced with the dilemma of figuring out a use for the unexpectedly large number of stuffed toys it has on hand. Officials said they do not see enough pediatric patients in a year to find a new home for each of the 60,000-odd soft toys.
According to Hakala, the rescue service is currently considering distributing the donated toys — to places such as children’s shelters.