By Nancy A. Fischer
The Buffalo News, N.Y.
TONAWADA, N.Y. — When Town of Tonawanda police respond to a car accident, fire or crime that’s left a child traumatized, they’ll have a new method to comfort the youngsters.
Officers will soon begin handing out cuddly teddy bears to children in need.
On Tuesday, Buffalo Biodiesel donated 100 Gund bears valued at $20 each to the Town of Tonawanda Police Department for the new program.
“Maybe this will give (a child) a little bit of comfort. I can just picture one of our officers giving a child one of these bears,” said Police Chief Jerome Uschold. “When a child is very upset I can picture them grabbing on to it and hugging it. It won’t make everything better, but it will give them something to hold on to.”
Patrol officers have been given the option of adding the bear to their equipment bag, along with their flashlights and other emergency equipment.
Uschold said these teddy bears will be something a child can keep and make personal by giving it a name.
He said the police department handed out bears about 10 years ago, but the bears were more like a small carnival toy.
“These are much nicer,” added Uschold.
Buffalo Biodiesel has been a community partner with the police department, donating cash to purchase two to three M4 rifles each year. On Tuesday the company also donated $3,000, for a second year in a row, which will be used towards the rifle program. The intention is to outfit the entire SWAT team, police reported.
Owner Sumit Majumdar said this softer side of police donations was suggested by his wife, Lindsay.
“Hopefully the child will get some comfort, whatever situation they are in, even if it is just a little bit,” said Majumdar.
Public Information Officer Lt. Thomas Haynes said every situation requires a special tool and this is just another one officers can use.
Haynes said officers also suffer when they meet children that have suffered traumatic incidents and are hurting. He said a teddy bear allows the officers to give back in a way that allows them to remain professional and also help. The teddy bears may also help bridge the gap between police and children who are suffering a bit of apprehension when they meet police, he added.
Retired Town of Tonawanda SWAT team officer Danny Walbesser, who helped to set up the teddy bear donation program, said a teddy bear can be a nice icebreaker between a child and an officer.
He said it will be up to the officers discretion when they want to hand out a bear and suggested that some officers may want to hand one out when they see a child do something nice for their community.
“Maybe a child is having a down day and an officer can use his discretion (to hand out a bear.) As long as it has meaning,” said Walbesser. “You just want kids to feel good.”
Uschold said the teddy bear program will be an option for officers and will not be mandatory.
Buffalo Biodiesel has also agreed to replenish the stock of bears.
“There will be more to come as we work our way through these,” said Haynes.
©2017 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)