More than 100 local officers and deputies joined a caravan Tuesday morning hauling a very special, plushy delivery: thousands of new teddy bears for patients at Rady Children’s Hospital.
The caravan – which included police motorcycles and squad patrol cars rolling Code 3 sirens – could be seen for miles along State Route 163 en route to the hospital.
The special delivery marked the culmination of the 23rd Annual San Diego Regional Law Enforcement Teddy Bear Drive hosted by the Escondido Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Law enforcement officials met at the USS Midway Museum at 6 a.m. Then, at 8:30 a.m., the caravan took off, arriving at the hospital to a crowd of cheering children and their families just before 9 a.m.
According to Teddy Bear Drive organizers, each year, the drive collects approximately 75,000 bears to brighten the days of sick and injured kids visiting Rady Children’s Hospital. All federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in San Diego participate in the effort, collecting stuffed animals throughout the year.
The Teddy Bear Drive began back in 1990 when Coronado police Officer Brian Hardy delivered a single car load of teddy bears to the hospital for young patients spending the holidays there.
That year, Hardy gathered 12 teddy bears. More than two decades later, more than one million stuffed animals and teddy bears have been donated through the annual drive.
For Hardy, the Teddy Bear Drive is a must-do tradition.
“God gave me the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time, and these guys make it happen,” Hardy said Tuesday, referring to his fellow officers. “That’s what Christmas is really all about – it’s all of us pulling together to help where we can.”