Who is Officer Teddy you ask? It is officer Brian Hardy from Coronado. He is a real-life police officer who has a very noble hobby – to gather stuffed animals and donate them to hospitals who then give them out to children. Over the years office Hardy’s efforts have grown into a very big initiative gathering tens of thousands stuffed animals per year, the San Diego Union Tribune writes.
It all started way back in 1990. Two weeks before Christmas officer Hardy saw a nearly empty toy donation bin at the local Children’s Hospital. It turned out there were six or so stuffies donated and more than 30 kids who would be spending the holidays in the hospital. This really upset him so he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“This was weighing on my mind when I went to Plaza Bonita to do my Christmas shopping. And across the front of Ward’s was a sign, ‘All teddy bears 50% off.’ A little light went on – I thought how cool it would be, a police car full of teddy bears,” Hardy recalled in a recent interview. He bought a dozen of stuffies and asked his then police chief Jack Drown to let him take a patrol car on his own time to deliver the toys to the hospital.
He’s been doing this every year since then. But he’s no longer alone. Each year more fellow officers join him. The number of donated stuffed animals started to grow fast. In just a few years they reached 1000 per year. Hardy got community members, sports teams and corporations to join and also donate. This is how he got to be known as Officer Teddy.
The initiative now has a name: The San Diego Regional Law Enforcement Teddy Bear Drive for Rady Children’s Hospital. The officials now expect between 50 000 and 60 000 stuffed animals to be donated just this year alone. The event is already underway and will continue up to December 7th, so there is still time to take part.
On December 8th, the toys will be bagged and put into patrol cars and SWAT vehicles. About 150 officers from 23 local, state and federal law agencies will go to the hospital in convoy to donate the toys.
“It’s really a sight,” said Carol Damon-Scherer, vice president of development for the Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation. “You hear them coming before you see them. Santa waves from the sheriff’s helicopter. Then they start unloading bag after bag after bag. The officers disperse through the hospital and hand out bears to patients in the rooms.”
She says that about a million of stuffed animals over the span of the last 25 years. There are now so many stuffed animals that the staff has almost 200 000 stuffies in storage which would be enough to give out a toy to every child that goes in the hospital and its neighborhood clinics throughout the year.
Officer Hardy is credited for turning the event into a part of the local police culture. This year he will be retiring with a back injury after 29 years of service. Even though he would no longer be an officer, he says the toy drive is “his baby” and that they are both parts of each other and will continue to stay involved.