The Rio Rancho Police is overwhelmed with thousands of stuffed animals which were donated following the passing of an officer at the police station.
“It has gotten to the point now where it’s borderline overwhelming. We have stuffed animals coming out of our ears”, lt. Nicholas Onken says to the KRQE News 13. The stuffed animals are coming in with an unmarked 15 foot trailer. It is completely filled to the bring with stuffies.
And that is not all. The police station in Rio Rancho is already overflowing with stuffed animals. There are hundreds of them in the main lobby of the police station. There are pile upon piles of plushies in the briefing room, too. The police station estimates that at least a couple of thousand stuffed animals have been donated in the past a couple of months.
In May this year, officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner was gunned down during a traffic stop, police say by career criminal Andrew Romero. In the wake of the officer’s death, his family made a simple request to the community: no flowers, donate stuffed animals instead, the TV station reminds us.
The community responded big time. Even to this day people are still donating stuffies to the police station. Now every police car has at least a couple of stuffed animals at all times. The cuddly toys are given out to children in traumatic situations, to make them feel a little bit better.
The reason Benner’s family made such a request is simple. The fallen officer loved to give out stuffed animals and knew first hand how important they can be to a child in a stressful situation. So his family wanted the tradition not only to continue but to grow.
“It’s to the point now where we have more stuffed animals than we have kids in need and by quite a long shot,” Onken said. Because of that, the department recently posted on its Facebook page that it wants families in the community to come take a tour of the police station and bring young kids along. Those kids will get a stuffed animal for making the trip.
The department is also exploring other options to put the cute toys to good use. This includes donating some of them for other good causes.
It is a trend that more and more police, fire departments and hospitals around the world are getting behind. They realize the therapeutic effect a stuffed animal can have.