Everyone could use some joy amid a worldwide pandemic and wildfires burning millions of acres in the western United States.
In September, a five-year-old Oregon boy named Carter and his grandmother, Sasha Tinning of Scappoose, were shopping for items to donate to firefighters when they came across a popular toy: Baby Yoda from the Star Wars series, The Mandalorian.
“I turn around and this Baby Yoda is just looking right at me and he was a darn cute little fella,” Tinning told the Register-Guard. “I said, ‘Hey, this looks neat, maybe we should take this to the firefighters.’”
Carter pinned a note to Baby Yoda that reads, “here is a friend in case you get lonely.” Since then, firefighters have carried the toy with them to four different wildfires in two different states, documenting the journey via Facebook.
“I really didn’t know that this was going to literally take off like a wildfire,” Tyler Eubanks, a Scappoose horse dentist who has been organizing firefighter donations, told the Register-Guard. “They’re having fun and it’s taking stress out of a very dark situation.”
More than 38,000 people follow the Facebook page, where Baby Yoda is often seen posing with different firefighters and responders. He’s even driven a truck or two and checked out the engine of a plane.
Staff Sgt. Jaebyn Drake, a firefighter with the Oregon Air National Guard, told the Register-Guard that having Baby Yoda along for the job has been a really big morale boost.
“A lot of the people on my crew, I showed them the note and everything and they just loved it,” Drake said. “A couple people broke down in tears. It just really meant a lot to us and it was really emotional for a lot of people.”
Baby Yoda has now become a “minor celebrity among all the fire crews,” according to the Register-Guard. TJ Ramos, an air tactical group supervisor with the Oregon Department of Forestry, rode with Baby Yoda on a flight over Oregon’s Holiday Farm Fire.
“You could instantly see everyone perk up a little bit, some smiles came on some straight faces and it was a different day,” Ramos said to the Register-Guard. “There was a lot of, ‘Oh, my kid was telling me about Baby Yoda, can I get a selfie with him?’ I think it not only added some morale and just a lift to everyone, I think it added almost a connection to home life.”