'Teddy Bear Patrol' again collects thousands of stuffed animals for charity

CREATED May 2, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Now in its 22nd year, more than 107,000 teddy bears and stuffed animals have been collected for the Teddy Bear Patrol. 

Retired Newsradio 620 WTMJ announcer Jonathan Green began the program in 1993 after an officer responded to a fire at his home and gave Green’s child a teddy bear.  Now police continue the program with the help of Newsradio 620 WTMJ, local schools, businesses and law enforcement agencies.

Brown Deer Middle/High Schooler Alexandria Millet tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka she loves being involved in the program, "Every year for a long time we've been involved in this and we get the whole community involved, donating teddy bears."

More than a dozen other schools and organizations have been collecting since March, ending the five week drive with some significant stats as Newsradio 620 WTMJ host Gene Mueller announced the final count of 2,417 stuffed animals donated this year.

Now the plush animals are pairing up with police officers from twelve local law enforcement agencies to be given to kids in crisis situations.  Glendale Police Officer Joel Dhein has seen the impact first hand, “A lot of times it’s just a comfort level thing for a child, regardless of the situation, if its stressful, just unfamiliar, lost, whatever the case might be, where they're waiting on parents or whatever it is, it gives the officer something to give to them to take their mind off the situation.”

Because trauma can leave a lasting impression, “I was terrified because our garage was on fire so I would have loved to have a teddy bear back then, it was a very scary, very scary experience and it has stayed with me all these years,” Terri Lodwick explains how her experience enticed her to bring All American Windows and Doors on board as a sponsor of the Teddy Bear Patrol.

And terrifying memories and experiences like Lodwick’s is what the Teddy Bear Patrol is trying to change.  “When we can make a positive impression on children, I think that's something that people remember,” Officer Dhein says.

And kids will remember how much comfort a stuffed animal can bring, no matter their situation.  “I feel like it loved me, like it was a real person so if I can give that feeling to anybody else, it’s always a great thing,” Alexandria adds.

Police give away every teddy bear each year the program has been in existence.