Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Troopers with teddy bears

July 24, 2017

Bears that Care visits Shriners Hospital in Minneapolis.
Photo: Trooper Lisa Sorenson and Dispatcher Jon Durst (as Smokey the Bear) present a young Shriners Hospital patient with a new stuffed animal as part of the Bears that Care program. Troopers also use stuffed animals to calm kids on the roadside.​

If you’ve ever been in a car crash, you know how scary they are. If there were kids in the car, you know it’s doubly so for them. If you haven’t, imagine getting beyond your own shock, pain and fear to worry whether your young children have been injured and to try to calm them down.

The Minnesota State Patrol understands this concept very well, which is why they carry teddy bears and other stuffed animals in the trunks of their squad cars. It may sound a little frivolous, but many a trooper has learned that a new fuzzy, squishy object can be as comforting as it is distracting for a child in a traumatic situation. They give them to children whose parents are arrested by the side of the road as well as children involved in crashes.

Trooper Scott Fredell, who started with the State Patrol in 1999, learned from his field training officer that giving a child a stuffed animal helps take their minds off the trauma of a crash or their parent being arrested, thus helping them calm down. This in turn helps the worried parent calm down, making it easier for the trooper to gather the necessary information from the parent about the situation.

This approach is so effective that State Patrol district offices have baskets of stuffed animals – usually donated by troopers’ friends and families – for troopers to take as they need them. Trooper Fredell, for example, carries several in Ziploc bags in his squad car, and he’s had to use them on several occasions. And stuffed animals help troopers beyond the road, too, like when they visit hospitals with Bears that Care (that’s some of them in the photo), a nonprofit started in 1987 by a trooper and the Teamsters Union.

The most memorable was when he pulled a vehicle over for speeding only to learn that there was a warrant out for the arrest of the driver, who had her young daughter in the car with her. They called a tow truck and a friend to pick up the child, and while they waited in Trooper Fredell’s squad car, he gave her a stuffed animal to play with. “She was very content to play with the stuffed animal in the squad car,” says Trooper Fredell, and when the mom’s friend arrived to pick up the daughter, she “didn’t think twice about saying goodbye to mom, as she was very happy with the stuffed animal and couldn’t wait to show it to the friend.”

But what Fredell found most moving was its effect on the mom: “On the way to jail, the mom was almost in tears, thanking me for treating her daughter so nicely and giving her a stuffed animal to keep her mind off the current events.”​