A few years ago, someone tweeted a plea to authors of children’s books. She asked if we would consider writing about “Hug-a-tree” as a way to help parents learn how to keep their children safe when out in the wilderness. . At the time, I had just begun writing Not a Happy Camper. I responded to the tweet saying that I would use “Hug-a-tree” in my book. I kept that promise with the hope that it will be helpful to someone, someday in the future.
“When Mr. Rawlings had finished speaking, a large screen was set up in front of the audience. Everyone watched intently as a video showed a family on a camping trip. A young boy name Tim wanted to go exploring on his own. Before he left, his mother gave him a backpack with water, a few snacks, an orange trash bag with holes for his head and arms, and a whistle. Tim ran through the woods, having a great time exploring everywhere. He was so excited about what he was doing that he forgot to notice where he was going. After a while, he became confused and didn’t know which way to go back to camp. At first Tim panicked, running around yelling for help. Finally, he calmed down and began to remember what he was supposed to do. He found a tree and piled up pine needles for a place to rest. He drank some water and ate part of his food, saving the rest for later. He knew it might be a long time before he was rescued. He put on the trash bag over his jacket so he would stay dry if it rained. Also, the bright orange trash bag would be visible to his rescuers.
When Tim didn’t return to camp, his parents called for help. Soon, people were searching the woods calling his name. They searched until dark and started searching again at first light. Finally, Tim heard them calling his name. He began blowing the whistle. He knew that the sound of the whistle was louder than his voice. One of the searchers heard the whistle and found the boy. He was checked over by a paramedic, who said he was fine—just a little dehydrated. Tim had done a few things wrong, but he had done more things correctly, which was why he was rescued.
After the video, there was a brief discussion about what happened to the boy. Parents were given a flyer with important information about how to keep their children safe when camping or hiking. As the campers left the dining hall, they were given a whistle and an orange trash bag. ‘Carry these with you at all times,’ they were told, ‘just in case you need them.’”
You can learn more about the Hug-a-Tree program by visiting their website http://www.nasar.org/hug_a_tree_program