The international practice of emergency responders providing stuffed animals to traumatized children appears to have begun in Indiana.
Records show “Trooper Teddy” was formally adopted as an official Indiana State Police program in December 1991. But the practice had begun some years earlier, said State Police information specialist Margaret Brooks.
The idea took off after Ernie Adler, Youth Services Center director for the Indiana State Police, mistakenly received a telephone call from an Associated Press reporter in Evansville.
“She thought she had the Kentucky State Police,” Adler said in an undated news article by Katherine Armington Hill kept in the archives of the Indiana State Police Museum. “I told her, ‘No, you have the Indiana State Police, but anything Kentucky has done, we’ve done it better!’”
“She started off talking about Kentucky just starting this ‘Trooper Teddy Program’ and I told her we’d been doing something like that for a year, going to hospitals and giving the children there our teddy bears,” Adler said. “She explained that Kentucky troopers were going to start putting the bears in their cars to give to children at accident sites — so I said, ‘So are we!’”
The story was distributed nationally by the wire service.
“I got calls from all over the country,” Adler said. “People wanted to know all about the program. Even (the late radio commentator) Paul Harvey picked up the story and talked about us on his program that week.”
That’s when the checks started rolling in. Adults, children, families of troopers and organizations from church groups to Boy Scouts offered to support the program.
Harvey himself sent $100.