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Jan. 1, 1970

Moose Lodges get together for foster kids

Dan Companion and Jessica Corliss hold two of 1,000 Tommy Moose Bears that will go into ‘comfort cases’ for children with family displacement in foster care.

RUTLAND, VT — On Saturday, Dec. 16, the Springfield and Bellows Falls Loyal Order of the Moose will be joining four of their state-wide lodges to meet from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. for a packing party of ‘Comfort Cases’ for children in transitional foster care homes in Vermont.

This event, open to the public, is calling for any volunteers who might want to take a pause during their Christmas shopping to stop in and help the six Moose lodges assemble the 1,000 knapsacks filled with blankets, pajamas, personal care items such toothpaste and brushes and their own ‘Tommy Moose’ dolls.

Jessica Corliss, first female president of the Springfield Moose Lodge No. 679 in Vermont history, said she and Dan Companion of both the Burlington and Rutland chapters are hoping that anyone with an hour or two to spare in Rutland will come in and help.

Companion said this project is very near and dear to his heart because he is a survivor of abuse and was adopted twice.

“When I learned about the Comfort Cases project, a light bulb went on in my head and I thought, ‘Why am I not doing more to help?’ This is a great place to start,” Companion said.

He is a survivor of a life that many children in foster care can relate to and is often the experience leading them to displacement in the foster care system. Despite his traumatic childhood, he doesn’t take anything his adopted mother did for granted and feels his gratitude for her is expressed in his involvement in finding ways to support foster children and the system that catches them before they fall.

“DCF gets a lot of criticism, but I see a lot of good things happening and they can’t build this village to raise children alone,” Companion said, going on to explain how he was left parentless. “My birth mother gave me up for adoption because her parents thought it was shameful for her to raise a child without being in the proper relationship. I was adopted twice and I have three birth certificates. My adopted mother, who I consider my mother, adopted me and the brother I grew up with separately with her first husband.”

Companion said they moved from Maine to Vermont and she separated from their first adopted father.

“She became a single mother and she worked so hard to be a great mom and she was. Then, she finally met the right person, my second adopted dad,” Companion said. “He turned out to be a wonderful man and adopted my brother and I.”

Companion, adopted twice, with two birth certificates gained a third when at age 40, he started looking for his birth mother and found her in Maine.

“It was covered by NBC and was the second largest news story in Maine at the time,” Companion recalled.

There was a live news broadcast of myself and a woman, also seeking her birth parents, unsealing our birth certificates,” he said. “It’s been 10 years since then and the relationship with my birth mother is somewhat strained, but I was able to find out what happened and where I came from.”

Companion’s compassion for DCF’s mission aligns with his wish that more single parents had support, and that there could be more people involved in any way possible with helping displaced children land on solid ground.

Aryka Radke, Vermont Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Department for Children and Families, will be available for anyone interested in additional information on the state’s foster care needs.

For the Moose, Tommy Moose dolls are their way of helping children in need.

Corliss said that Tommy Moose is the original doll created by the Moose that are donated statewide to hospitals, first responders and organizations that deal with children facing traumatic circumstances.

“We give these dolls out so that children will be comforted, and it is meaningful to our organization,” Corliss said. “The Moose are deeply involved in helping the elderly, children and veterans. These are our missions and we wanted to create this event to get people involved in these causes and also give the public an eye into what we are all about.”

She has been heavily involved in the Moose Lodge, through the inspiration of her grandparents’ commitment throughout her life.

Now, as president of her hometown lodge, Corliss wants to bring Vermonters together for the charities she and her fellow Moose are passionate about.

Learn more here.

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