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Oregon firefighters battling wildfires across the state have a new "force" on their team: a plush Baby Yoda doll. The adorable alien tyke, from Disney's popular Star Wars series The Mandalorian, has become a symbol of hope and joy among the first responders who have been tirelessly fighting the historic blazes that have wiped out communities and killed at least nine people since early September.
It all began when five-year-old Carver Tinning and his grandmother Sasha Tinning from Scappoose, Oregon, stumbled upon the plush toy while searching for items to donate to Oregon firefighters. “I turn around, and this Baby Yoda is just looking right at me, and he was a darn cute little fella,” Sasha said. “I said, ‘Hey, this looks neat, maybe we should take this to the firefighters.’” Carver responded, “He would be a very good friend for them.”
The toy, along with a note saying, “Thank you, firefighters. Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver, " was handed to donation drive volunteers on September 12, 2020. The thoughtful gift brought tears to their eyes. "The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” says volunteer Tyler Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”
Eubanks delivered the toy to a group of firefighters working to contain a 25-acre blaze in Colton, Oregon. She had initially intended to snap a few pictures of the Baby Yoda in action for Carver, and then bring back the toy to the donation site. However, the firefighters decided to hold on to the doll and share it to lift the spirits of troops across the state and also of colleagues fighting fires in Colorado.
"He's been a really big morale boost,” said Staff Sgt. Jaebyn Drake, a firefighter with the Oregon Air National Guard. “A lot of the people on my crew, I showed them the note and everything, and they just loved it. A couple of people broke down in tears ... It just really meant a lot to us, and it was really emotional for a lot of people.”
It's not just the firefighters that are finding solace in the doll. “Baby Yoda Fights Fires," a Facebook page Eubanks set up to document the toy's adventures as it circulates through different crews, has garnered over 50,000 fans, many of whom look forward to the daily updates.
Eubanks is thrilled by the community response. “Because of all these photos, people are now seeing the human faces behind the wildfires," she told the Washington Post. "The attention is giving firefighters a huge morale boost, which is something that’s really needed right now.”
Sasha agrees, saying, "It’s a miracle how one small gesture can create a wave of kindness." The 54-year-old says Carver is excited that everyone likes Baby Yoda and happy that the first responders — many of whom have been unable to see their families for weeks — have a " little friend to give them comfort."
Resources: CNN.com, Cnet.com,nerdist.com