There was no shortage of teddy bears at Rady Children’s Hospital where numerous law enforcement agencies gathered to give away thousands of the stuffed animals to patients.
This year marked the 22nd for the annual San Diego regional law enforcement teddy bear drive, with representatives from local, state and federal agencies.
They distributed approximately 40,000 stuffed animals from various agencies, schools and individuals on Dec. 11.
The bears were collected at every law enforcement agency in the county beginning in October.
Coronado Police officer Brian Hardy created the concept of the drive in 1990, which started with just 12 bears.
Today the event has grown to more than 100 officers representing 15 agencies collecting 40,000-plus bears every year.
In addition, San Diego Chargers players participated in the event and rode alongside San Diego County law enforcement in a caravan from the USS Midway, where they had breakfast, to the hospital with code 3 sirens blaring.
They arrived to a crowd of cheering patients, parents and staff which greeted the officers as they drove up the driveway in front of the Rose Pavilion.
After a brief ceremony and introductions, those delivering the bears broke into groups of two, visiting patients in various departments in the hospital.
Chula Vista Police officer Alicia Chudy has participated for the last seven years.
“It was definitely a lot of fun visiting the kids,” Chudy said. “It really touches the people who visit them.”
“Most of the kids have to stay in the hospital so being able to bring them a teddy bear … really makes a difference to them and they enjoy seeing us,” she said.
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano was also at the event.
“It’s one of our favorite events,” Bejarano said. “It’s all about the kids. You see the big look in their eyes … it’s really neat to see that.”
The department brought 1,100 stuffed animals, an effort coordinated by police community relations specialist Angela Gaines, who has participated since 2006.
“Anything for the children,” Gaines said. “Anybody who can be made to feel better, I’m all for it.”
Gaines said the planning for the event begins well in advance, with committee meetings held to work out the details.
“When you have the chance to go out and solicit help, help comes in all forms,” she said.
Rady media relations officer Carlos Delgado said approximately 200 patients received teddy bears on Tuesday.
“The rest are put in storage and we distribute them every day to patients who are here,” he said.
In addition, a total of $30,000 was donated via two checks from sponsors Sycuan and Geico, which will be used to buy teddy bears throughout the year for patients.
Many of the patients are at the hospital from a few days to a few weeks.
“It’s just such a rewarding feeling for everyone involved,” Delgado said. “It’s something our staff looks forward to every year. It’s a wonderful collaboration … to be able to make a difference.”
Each year, one agency volunteers to lead the drive. This year it was hosted by the El Cajon Police Department and California Highway Patrol.