Saint Leo University Donates Nearly 300 Teddy Bears, Stuffed Animals to Tampa Police Department
Donations from public, students, faculty, and staff will be used by Behavioral Health Unit and other officers to help children in crisis situations.
Everyone needs a little comfort — especially a child in a time of crisis. In keeping with its core value of “community,” Saint Leo University again collected “Teddy Bears for TPD” in order to provide a type of “comfort squad” for members of the Tampa Police Department to distribute. On Thursday, December 15, TPD officers and Interim Chief Lee Bercaw collected the teddy bears and stuffed animals at the university’s Tampa Education Center, located at 1403 W. Howard Ave.
This is the second year for the project, which was led by the Tampa Education Center and supported by faculty, staff, students, and the public. Saint Leo’s Student Government Union and student groups also collected animals at its residential campus in Pasco County and at the East Pasco Education Center locations. This year, 300 stuffed animals were collected.
Bercaw said that the bears can help start a conversation in a difficult situation. “They can get a child smiling,” he said.
The stuffed animals mainly will be used by TPD’s Behavioral Health Unit officers, but also will be available in TPD offices. Officers help the vulnerable population and those in crisis, and help keep situations from escalating. “Community support — such as that provided by Saint Leo University — is what we really need,” Bercaw said. “Saint Leo is a great partner for us and we appreciate the support.”
The idea of donating teddy bears was sparked by one of the Tampa center’s social work instructors, who discussed how children experience traumatic events.
In late 2020, Saint Leo moved its Tampa location to the historic former Berriman-Morgan Cigar Factory building, 1403 N. Howard Ave., and, “We really wanted to support our local community and give back,” said Rod Kirkwood, area 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.”
Many of the university’s degree programs align with this project, including criminal justice and social work. Saint Leo boasts Bercaw as one of its most recent graduates as he earned his Doctor of Criminal Justice degree earlier this year.