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Community Bear Program

Community Bear Program

Helping us be there for children of tragic circumstance


If there are truly those who can be called innocent victims, it is the children who fall victim to tragic circumstance such as personal injury, traffic collisions and criminal acts including family violence and sexual abuse.

Children have little way of understanding what has happened to their parents or even to themselves in any of these stressful situations.  Police officers know the trauma children suffer but while attempting to comfort child victims, officers so often become only one more frightening aspect of an already overwhelming and terrifying experience.

Thanks to the generous support of corporate sponsor Aviva Canada Inc., the OPP has equipped its cruisers with special black and white teddy bears under the new Community Bear Program.

With the support of Aviva Canada, the new “Community Bear” is now on daily patrol in more than 1,600 of the OPP’s fleet of black and white cruisers across Ontario.

The Community Bears will be available for gifting to children in distress as a means of comforting them and forming a bond between the child and the officer.


What is the Community Bear program?
The OPP Community Bear program is in partnership with Aviva Canada Inc., and provides OPP officers with black and white teddy bears to give out to distressed children they encounter while carrying out their policing duties.  Psychological studies show that stuffed animals can have a significant calming effect on children in stressful or traumatic circumstances and this program aims to achieve this.


How does the Community Bear program work?

When OPP officers are investigating a situation involving small children, a Community Bear may be gifted to a child to help them get through a traumatic experience, giving them something positive to focus on.



What are the Effects of a Traumatic Event on Children?
Children often experience a wide range of physical and emotional reactions during and following a traumatic event.  The symptoms and feelings may last from a few days to a few months and typically fade over time as the child gradually processed that trauma.

Regardless of what causes the trauma, that child must cope with the loss, at least temporarily, of their sense of safety and security.  Frightened or traumatized children – especially very young children – often express their feelings by means of behavioural changes.  These changes are the child’s way of saying that he or she was overwhelmed by something very terrifying.   

 

What are the emotional symptoms of trauma?

Shock, denial, or disbelief  Confusion, difficulty concentrating
Anger, irritability, mood swings Anxiety and fear
Guilt, shame, self-blame Withdrawing from others
Sadness and hopelessness Feeling disconnected or numb



What are the physical symptoms of trauma?

Insomnia or nightmares Fatigue
Being startled easily Difficulty concentrating
Racing heartbeat Edginess and agitation
Aches and pains Muscle tension

Community Bear



Additional resources:
Victim Services Ontario

Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness

OPP Abuse Issues

Canadian Centre for Child Protection



Being there for children of tragic circumstance:
The following are samples of the positive impact Community Bears provide in support of child victims of crime and/or road trauma:

My name is Loretta B. I am now 28 years old. I want to tell you about my special friend from when I was a young child.

He is white, brown feet and wears a blue scarf. People would say he didn’t talk, but to my imagination he once did. He taught me how to be brave and always assured me everything would be ok. I never felt alone when I was with this friend. I was even able to take him with me to the places that scared me.  

This friend I am speaking of was an ‘OPP Community Bear’. He was given to me when my world as I thought at 6 years old couldn’t get any worse. I understand now it was the beginning of life without pain and abuse. However this little bear became my new best friend. He represented the Officer who gave us our friendship.

He was my new little protector. He sat in court with me, when I had to tell my story. He snuggled with me when I was scared. He was everything to me at that time. Even years later now that I am grown up and have a family of my own; I sit, wishing that he was still in my possession.

At some point he was not needed as much, he didn’t travel or go for sleep overs and court was finally finished. I lost him at some point but was recently reunited with a similar bear. Seeing this bear and knowing that the program is in its third attempt. I am very grateful that we have sponsors and officers that will get these bears out there to children that have been in traumatic situations. 

I personally know myself that this program is effective. I was once that child, and in need of a little bear. At the time my bear didn’t ask questions, judge and he always gave me a hug when needed.

I thank the OPP Community Bear program for supporting me when I needed it most. These bears do make a difference. I would like to thank OPP Sgt Gary Blucher for originally giving me the bear in the early 90s and AVIVA Canada for reuniting me with a bear that looks just like my bear that was so special to me. 

Sincerely yours,
Loretta B.


November 3, 2012: Two (2) year old girl injured and upset from involvement in motor vehicle collision.

Twenty Nine year (29) OPP Veteran Officer presented child with Community Bear and reported:

"she received the bear and her smile lit up the ambulance!"