Saint Leo University Provides Teddy Bears, ‘Stuffies’ for Tampa Police Department

By Meaghan Goepferich Posted on December 23, 2021

Nearly 250 Stuffed Animals Donated for Officers to Carry in Vehicles to provide Comfort to Children in Stressful, Crisis Situations

Saint Leo University Provides Teddy Bears, ‘Stuffies’ for Tampa Police Department

Some cuddly teddy bears and other stuffed animals will join the Tampa Police Department thanks to Saint Leo University. On Thursday, December 16, at the university’s Tampa Education Center, Interim TPD Chief Ruben Delgado, Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw, and members of the department’s new Behavioral Health Unit and others TPD members, received nearly 250 stuffed animals.

Spearheaded by Saint Leo University-Tampa and supported by the university’s Student Government Union and East Pasco Education Center, Teddy Bears for TPD collected the stuffed animals from November 9 through December 13 at the university’s Tampa location and at its residential campus in Pasco County.

The new Behavioral Health Unit along with the Major Crimes, Sex Crimes, and Domestic Violence units will now have teddy bears and stuffed animals in their vehicles that they can give to provide comfort to children in stressful situations, said Tampa Police Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw.

“Children may not be a victim of a crime,” Bercaw said, “but they may witness a parent having a mental health issue or other issues.”

Law enforcement officers often encounter children on the scene of a crime, accident, or other situation. “When police arrive on scene, they’re the first people to see children in a traumatic situation,” said Tampa Police Interim Chief Ruben Delgado. “Giving them a teddy bear or a stuffed animal helps calm them. It really makes a difference.”

“Now, thanks to Saint Leo University, we’ll be able to provide a teddy bear, and we’ll get the child to smile,” said Officer Angie Torres, a member of the Behavioral Health Unit. “If I get a teddy bear, I smile! We all love teddy bears.”

Saint Leo moved its Tampa location to the historic former Berriman-Morgan Cigar Factory building, 1403 N. Howard Ave., in late 2020. “We really wanted to support our local community and give back,” said Rod Kirkwood, director of Saint Leo’s Tampa Education Center. “Being able to partner with and support the Tampa Police Department is important, and we want interactions with the police to be positive for children, even if it’s a scary situation.”

The Tampa Education Center hopes to continue this partnership and collect more “comfort squads” of stuffed animals in 2022.


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