Alumna Allison Tollefson crochets plushies for first responders

Feb 14, 2024
Allison Tollefson crocheted a variety of plushie animals to donate to Butler County EMS and Fire Station.

Newman alumna Allison (Williams) Tollefson ‘22 channeled a creative hobby into a way of sparking joy for children in difficult circumstances.

When Tollefson learned that Andover, Kansas, police officers keep stickers in their vehicles to give to children to help them feel safer and more trusting with authority figures, she wanted to contribute something more tangible.

Tollefson, who started crocheting less than two years ago, recently donated 12 crocheted plushie animals in the forms of cats, pigs, sea creatures, frogs and more to the Butler County EMS and Fire Station in Andover.

Allison Tollefson '22
Allison Tollefson ’22

“As a criminal justice and psychology student, I know that children often get caught up in scary situations and may not be able to receive comfort from a trusted adult in that moment,” she explained. “Many people in the community drop off larger stuffed animals for donations, but EMS cannot always fit these into the compartments in the ambulances. Instead, they often have to donate these to children’s homes or hospitals.”

The fire chief was impressed, grateful and assured Tollefson that his team would get the plushies into vehicles that same day.

Tollefson hopes the child recipients get just as much (if not more) joy from the crocheted plushies as she had during the creation process.

“I love the arts but I’m not great at drawing, already do enough writing for school and coloring honestly just frustrates me,” Tollefson said. “Crochet is, so far, the only hobby that my ADHD consistently returns to that keeps activating my dopamine.”

Allison holds a completed plushie animal made from yarn.
Allison holds a completed plushie animal made from yarn.

Adding to her professional passions

Since donating the plushies, Tollefson has also provided crocheted gifts for her husband’s job as well as the preschool at South Central Mental Health, where she works as a children’s care coordinator.

“I develop treatment plan goals and objectives, strengths-based interventions and support system collaboration for kiddos with serious emotional disturbances,” Tollefson said. “I also lead a Dungeons and Dragons social skills and leadership group.”

Witnessing children graduate from her services is “incredibly rewarding,” but Tollefson’s favorite aspect of the job is advocating for the children she works with, which in turn provides some relief to their guardians.

“Now that I’ve worked with children and families, I want to pursue diagnostics and assessments along with competency evaluations for the court system,” Tollefson said. “Ultimately, my goal is to help individuals seeking treatment feel heard and understood rather than placed into boxes just because they fit there.”

My goal is to help individuals seeking treatment feel heard and understood rather than placed into boxes just because they fit there.

Allison Tollefson

She is working toward that goal as she earns her master’s degree in clinical psychology from Fort Hays State University.

“Newman helped me develop a mindset to find positivity in all situations, allowing me to focus on strengths when interacting with my kiddos at work to help build them up,” she said. “They also do not lie when they say they’re preparing you for grad school, which I’m incredibly grateful for as the perseverance I learned during my coursework has made grad school much easier.”

Tollefson, her husband and dog Bella
Tollefson, her husband and dog, Bella

Tollefson knows there will always be more tasks to complete, but assures current students and fellow alumni that taking breaks and investing in hobbies is worth the time and effort.

“Taking a break to do something that makes you love life will help you tackle the endless list, and the tasks will still be there whether you take a break or not,” she said. “Take a step back every now and then to remember your own big picture that will help you prioritize work, school, life and self-care.”

Earn a criminal justice degree

Newman University’s criminal justice program embraces the multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving and, therefore, it enables graduates to achieve success in a wide array of professional settings.