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Hug-a-Tree and Survive training at elementary school

Posted by: tdt -

By Robin Scott

DeNisa Brown, a paramedic with EMS, and her bloodhound, Max, and Kelly Gallaway, Trauma Coordinator for Coon Memorial Hospital visited the students at Dalhart Elementary School on Thursday, May 21st.  The purpose of their visit was to speak with the youngsters about how to be safe if they ever get lost.

The Hug-a-Tree and Survive program was developed after the death of a nine-year-old boy named Jimmy Beveridge in 1981 in southern California.  He was lost in a wooded area after having been out on a day trip with his family.  Since children tend to wander when they become lost, the idea was to train children to find a tree and stay put.  The Hug-a-Tree and Survive program teaches children how to survive in the woods should they become lost. The program was developed to educate children regarding the most basic and vital survival principles.

The program consists of a trained presenter such as a search and rescue volunteer, police officer, park ranger, or similar uniformed individual who follows a tightly scripted presentation that has three primary parts: an introduction (of the presenter and program), an entertaining video presentation for children, and a few practical suggestions and demonstrations.

Many children are alive today because of their experience with the Hug-a-Tree and Survive program.  DeNisa and Kelly presented the program to nearly every student at the elementary school and children in the Head Start program.   The key idea behind the program is for a lost child to find a tree, hug the tree, and stay put.  Children are also taught to scream if they hear a noise.  DeNisa stated, “If it’s an animal the screams will scare it away, but if it’s a person they’ll find the child.”  Children are also encouraged to name their tree and talk to their tree so that they have a sense of security and comfort while they are alone and waiting for rescue.

Max is a working dog, trained in search and rescue.  He travels along with owner, DeNisa, to make sure children are aware not to be afraid.  DeNisa stated, “If you’re ever lost you want to hear the dogs coming, so we teach the children not to be afraid of dogs like Max.”   

Another good way to instill the principals taught in the program is to ask children what they have learned and to demonstrate their new skills.  For more information on Hug-a-Tree visit or contact DeNisa Brown at 244-2524.