EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Recently on Veteran’s Voices, Eyewitness News featured a local organization called “Veterans Promise” in Lackawanna County which provides outreach for vets going through PTSD and substance abuse issues.

Friday night we’re doing a follow-up on a new project involving a cuddly bear and the effect it’s having on families who’ve suffered a loss.

It’s the simplest of playtoys, but this teddy bear is making a big difference in local kids’ lives. Kids who’ve lost a parent or loved one.

Dave Ragan of Veterans Promise came up with the idea four years ago after a local seven-year-old girl lost her father. Ragan picked up a large teddy bear and gave it to her at the funeral to help her get through a tough time. It was supposed to be a one-time thing.

“But I will tell you, something changed in that child when we handed her the bear. There was this instant connection. The bear never left her hands and we were there for a couple of hours,” Ragan explained.

A one-time gesture of kindness became a permanent addition to Veterans Promise. Ragan named the bear “Major Hugs” and after funding from donors, Ragan was able to buy more of them.

Now he gives a bear to every child who’s lost a veteran family member. He’s now hoping to extend Major Hugs to active-duty soldiers who are deployed. Ragan says Major Hugs has been a healer in more ways than one.

“I hope that Major Hugs will replace me as a spokesperson one day. Major Hugs can be the person that talks to you because this message is just absolutely amazing,” Ragan continued.

If you have an idea for our Veteran’s Voices segment, send me an email at ntoma@pahomepage.com