On a Saturday, in February of 1981, three brothers were together on Palomar Mountain, 60 miles from San Diego. They were walking on a popular nature trail a half mile from the camp where their parents were preparing lunch.
Two of the brothers believed that the nine year old was racing them back to camp, but Jimmy Beveridge never arrived.
The family spent one hour searching on their own, then contacted the Park Ranger, who notified the Sheriff's Department. By late afternoon, the sheriff's helicopter arrived, Sheriff's Reserve Search and Rescue personnel were beginning to assemble and members of the San Diego Mountain Rescue Team arrived. The official search had begun and quickly rolled into high gear as the afternoon and night wore on.
As often happens during February in southern California, the weather was unpredictable. Saturday had dawned beautifully clear. It was warm in the sun and cool enough for a jacket in the shade. There were still patches of snow in the areas the sun didn't reach. As nightfall approached, clouds and fog moved in and the temperature steadily dropped.
By Monday it was raining almost continuously and fog continued to shroud the mountaintop. One by one, the fine tools of the search and rescue specialists lost effectiveness. The helicopters could fly only when the cloud ceiling retreated enough to permit them to take off. The wind and rain had neutralized Jimmy's scent, so tracking dogs were of no use. The only hope was to systematically search the entire area, and pray for a sign of the boy.
Tuesday morning the weather broke and the sun came out. There were about 400 searchers on the scene, including 200 Marines. That afternoon the boy's jacket and one shoe were recovered and his direction of travel was finally established. Wednesday morning Jimmy's body was found, curled up next to a tree in a ravine, about two miles from the campground. He had died from hypothermia.
A great anguish overcame many of the searchers, for this lost boy and his family. It was a deep and personal feeling that you could see in many faces, on the mountain and for months afterward. There was grief in it, for a young boy who had lost his life, and also a feeling of a great wrong that had occurred, with nobody at fault to blame.
Many people were affected by this tragedy and had a desire to prevent it from occurring again. This desire was the beginning of "Hug-A-Tree and Survive", a slide presentation and demonstration designed to teach children aged 5 -12 basic survival principles. It is designed for their level of understanding and with respect for them as persons. Ab Taylor, Tom Jacobs, Jackie Heet and Dorothy Taylor developed the program in March of 1981.
Survival education for children was not a new concept. A movement had been underway for some years in California to make survival education mandatory in the schools, however the wheels turn slowly. Material was being written by curriculum committees at the state level, but was still several years from implementation.
The people who started Hug-A-Tree decided to bypass the bureaucracy and begin teaching the children. A shooting script was written, and a mock search conducted, so over a thousand photographic slides could be shot. Every search and rescue organization in the county participated. After processing and editing, the pictures seemed to tell a story by themselves. This story was written down as a script, so the presenter could narrate the program without missing any important points. A sound track was recorded to acquaint the children with noises that they might hear at night in a rural area. A handout was written for the children to take home and share the information with their parents.
Once the program was together, it was presented to a group of fifth graders at Marvin Elementary School, who shared their candid comments and criticisms. Several slides were eliminated at their urging, and the script rewritten. Three weeks after the first discussion of this project, the first assembly was presented and approved for presentation in San Diego schools. The first few presentations were followed up by critiques from students, teachers, and principals; and their suggestions incorporated. The result was a polished and effective program.
Presenters were recruited from local search and rescue and law enforcement organizations. In addition to expert knowledge of search and rescue, the ability to relate to children and speak in public is important.
Hug-A-Tree has received documentation of several official searches where lost children were found safe because they had seen the program. Many agencies have reported that in areas where the Hug-A-Tree program is available there has been a significant decrease in the number of searches for lost children.
article in the August 10, 1982 issue of Woman's Day magazine, several
thousand letters were received requesting further information and
expansion of the program to their areas. Hug-A-Tree has also been
featured nationally on P.M. Magazine and in several national as well as
international magazines. As a result the Program has expanded to the 49
North American states and other countries.
To schedule a Hug-A-Tree presentation, please contact the Search and Rescue Office at, 619-956-4990.
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