JoJo Jaskulski

Harry Funk/The Almanac

JoJo Jaskulski displays an example of the stuffed animals she buys to give to first responders.

Being involved in a vehicle accident can certainly be an alarming proposition for any adult.

Now think of a child in the same situation, someone who might not have much of an understanding about what is occurring, and the fright that he or she is likely to experience.

JoJo Jaskulski

Harry Funk/The Almanac

JoJo Jaskulski displays an example of the items she makes for sale to raise money for stuffed animals.

In such cases, it’s JoJo Jaskulski to the rescue.

“I raise money to buy stuffed animals to give to first responders,” she said, which in turn they can “give to kids for comfort.”

The Canonsburg-area youngster and her mother, Melanie, recently visited a McMurray Rotary Club meeting in Peters Township to talk about JoJo’s Hug Project, which has distributed more than 300 of the toys since last summer.

In appreciation of their efforts, club members presented JoJo with a stack of gift cards.

“We want you to use those to get some more great gifts to the kids who need them most,” David Wylie, 2019-20 club president, told her.

The donation adds to JoJo’s fundraising through the selling of items she makes: small charms, necklaces, bracelets and key chains, along with do-it-yourself lip balm from the wax of crayons.

She has helpers, too, such as friends who are joining her for an Aug. 4 bracelet-making class, with North Strabane Township Fire Department offering space for the event.

The money goes toward purchasing the likes of plush Squishmallows, Disney Cuddleez and Ty Beanie Babies, with the intent of them providing a calming effect during emergencies.

“These kids are pretty scared when they get her stuffed animals,” Melanie Jaskulski said. “There have been domestic calls with a child there, search warrants served, car accidents, even DUIs with children in the car.”

Along with area police and fire departments, JoJo’s Hug Project also has made donations to Washington Hospital emergency room, local food pantries and other locations where youngsters may be in need of comfort.

The Jaskulskis’ efforts dovetail with the 2019-20 project of Rotary International District 7305.

Al DeLucia, a McMurray member and district governor-elect, described Rotary Cares, a program for distributing stickers, to be placed on children’s safety seats, that contain emergency contact information.

Rotarians also are educating first responders about the program.

“They will know to look on the back of the child’s car seat about information on whom to contact if the adults in the front seat or anywhere in the car are unresponsive,” DeLucia said.

In another measure promoting the safety of children, McMurray Rotary Club presented Capt. Jennifer Ford of Peters Township police with a $500 donation toward the department’s free IdentiKid Program.

“At events around the township, we will offer that service to fingerprint and photograph the child,” Ford said, adding that parents will receive cards on which those images are printed. “If something happens to a child, you have information that you can give to the police so that they have a description.”

For more information JoJo’s Hug Project, visit www.facebook.com/JoJoHugProject.

Emilie Angel and JoJo Jaskulski

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Emilie Angel, left, joins friend JoJo Jaskulski at a McMurray Rotary Club meeting at Atria’s Restaurant in Peters Township.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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