Boy Scout sees R-Metro need, sparks ‘Toy SACKs’ Eagle project

Farragut Boy Scout Tyler Perry has put together an Eagle Scout project to help Rural Metro Fire and special needs youths at the same time.

Perry, a Concord-area resident and member of Troop 15, which meets at Virtue Cumberland Presbyterian Church, recently presented 20 Sensory Calming Kits, which he calls “Toy SACKs,” to Rural Metro Fire to be used for children with special needs. He will sit for the Boy Scout Board of Review in March to earn his Eagle Scout award.

For Perry, the son of Dean and Tracy Perry, the project was dear to his heart.

“Most Eagle Scout projects are outdoor buildings, landscaping or cleanup,” said Perry, who has been scouting since the second grade. “This wasn’t really me.”

Perry describes how he discovered “Toy SACSs” in the following paragraphs:

“One day, I saw a story on the news. It was about a firefighter in another city that has an autistic child who developed a helpful guide and a small packet of ‘toys’ to help distract special needs kids in times of emergency and stress.  

“I thought that this was a great idea, but I realized something was missing. You can’t offer a child some simple toys and expect that to solve the problem. For a special needs child in the middle of a sensory meltdown, there is no reasoning.

“You can’t focus on anything except the sights, sounds or smells that are bothering you. You react, sometimes violently, in some effort to stop the constant assault on your senses. In this state, no amount of crayons or toy cars will help. 

“I know because I am autistic. You have to first address the sights, noises, and smells that are traumatizing you.

“There are tools that can help with that. Many special needs kids have these tools to help them, but might not be with them in a time of emergency. These items can also offer comfort to any child who needs it. Then, the toys can be added to help.”

“They can calm (the young people) in an emergency, whether it be a fire or a medical event or an accident,” said Capt. Jeff Bagwell, public information officer for Rural Metro Fire. “(Perry) put together one (kit) for each (fire) engine.

“He is a 100 percent fantastic young man to put this together for his Eagle Scout project,” Bagwell added about Tyler.

When RMF arrives on a scene “with a child who’s experiencing some kind of an event, whether it be a medical event, an accident or just locked in the car — and we’ve had that happen — it’s hard to communicate with some of these kids, depending on their level of special needs that they may have,” Bagwell said.

“To give them a stuffed animal — or you can give them some kind of a device or a toy that can soothe them and calm them to where they can communicate better, — it always makes it better.”

There are more than $5,000 worth of tools and toys in the kits, Perry’s father, Dean Perry, said.

“And, (they) even gave us extra supplies,” Bagwell said. “He even created a video that we can show our people on what’s in the kit and how to use it.”

Despite the pandemic, “This would allow (Bagwell) to upload it onto their Rural Metro website and allow his people to be trained before distributing the kit,” Dean said.

“These (Toy SACKs) are to be stored on fire trucks and other emergency vehicles to address sensory overload issues in special needs children, as well as any child who needs a little extra comfort during a time of stress,” the father added.

The kits contain items such as noise-reduction headphones, dark migraine-level sunglasses, odor-reducing masks, weighted blankets, a sensory calming brush, an electronic dry erase board for non-verbal children, individually packed wet wipes, a laminated tip sheet with tips on working with special needs children and a booklet explaining the contents of the kit.  

Dean said the toys included are stuffed animals, stress balls, fidget spinners, click fidgets, calming board books, coloring books, activity workbooks featuring firefighters and other officers of the community, crayons and Play-doh.