Fundraiser to boost fallen officers remembrance effort
A local nonprofit dedicated to touching the lives of families that have lost a loved one in law enforcement is hosting a gala event to ensure their work continues.
Blue Line Bears, an organization that creates teddy bears out of a fallen officer’s uniform to deliver to the family, specifically children, is holding the inaugural Bears & Badges Gala Friday, Dec. 6 from 6-10 p.m. at the Burroughs Home and Garden in Fort Myers.
Founder of Blue Line Bears, Megan O’Grady, daughter of Cape Coral Police Department Master Sgt. Patrick O’Grady and Bishop Verot senior, is heading to college next year, and is unable to assume all of the responsibility it takes to make the nonprofit possible. The main focus of the gala is to raise money to hire someone to help make bears and focus on administrative tasks.
O’Grady created Blue Line Bears in 2016 when she was 14, stemming from the Dallas police shooting that took the lives of five officers and injured nine others.
“My dad is a police officer in Cape Coral and this attack hit close to home because of my close relationship with police officers,” she said. “I asked my dad what happens to these families after they lose their loved one, and he said they are remembered for a while, but eventually they have to move on and often times they are forgotten. This upset me, so I decided to do something to show the family they won’t be forgotten and to show the officer will always be remembered. I only expected to make maybe 30 bears a year at a maximum, but in the almost three years I’ve been doing this, I’ve made over 630 bears for families all over the United States, Canada, Afghanistan, and England. I have grown in support and efficiency so much these past three years and I’m glad I can help more and more families everyday.”
O’Grady wanted to create something tangible, something a family member or child could touch and keep, such as a teddy bear. The bears are extremely well made, with patches of the officer’s department and their badge displaying the officer’s name and badge number sewn on. If the officer had stripes for rank or service, those will also adorn the bear as well.
“I wanted to make something that could be used, not just looked at,” she said. “I also wanted it to be something children could have and hold forever. This is where I came up with the idea for teddy bears. Then I wanted to do something no one else was doing, so I decided I was going to make them personalized and out of the uniform shirt.”
For O’Grady, giving a child something to remember their parent by, is something you can’t put a price tag on. The bonds she creates with the families she meets is something she will keep in her heart forever.
“The most rewarding part of this is the relationships I am able to build with these families and hearing about the impact the bears have on the families,” O’Grady said. “I love being able to watch a family grow and overcome the tragedy of losing a loved one while simultaneously never forgetting their officers. This has really taught me that even in the times of immense tragedy, there is the capability for growth and love.”
She recalls one special connection she made with a family that had lost their father/husband — one that she still keeps in touch with today.
“I mailed bears to a family over two years ago. The two small children (4 and 2 at the time) grew to love their bears and call them ‘daddy bears’ and they take them everywhere,” she said. “The wife of the officer made her own foundation to remember the officer and she still remains in close contact with me. She was the first person I went to when I needed a college recommendation letter. They are truly my family now.”
These bears go to families all across the United States and beyond. Blue Line Bears reaches out to law enforcement agencies to get information about the fallen officer, as well as a uniform shirt to create a personalized bear for each of the officer’s children.
The organization will contact a victim’s advocate, public information officer, or watch commander, to assist in making contact with the appropriate person. Once that step is complete, Blue Line Bears will request a uniform that they can transform into a keepsake that will touch the lives of a family forever.
Blue Line Bears also recommends the agency remove the collar of the uniform, as well as a patch or two, to ensure that the uniform will never be used to impersonate an officer. Each bear is given a St. Michael medal and blessed by a priest before being mailed to the family, at no expense. Through donations and other contributions, Blue Line Bears purchases all materials and covers the cost of shipping.
O’Grady said creating this nonprofit has changed her as a person and that creating these bears for fallen officers is what she believes she was destined to do.
“I have become a much more empathic person,” she said. “I have been able to experience so many things and learned so many new things, that I have honestly just become a much stronger version of myself. I believe this is what I was put on this earth to do, and I’m so grateful to be here doing this.”
Tickets for the Bears & Badges Gala are $150 each. Sponsorship opportunities at multiple levels are also available (that include tickets to the event).
The gala includes a cocktail hour and dinner.
“The money raised at the Bears & Badges Inaugural Gala goes to hiring an executive director so I can go off to college and leave Blue Line Bears in good hands.”
For more information on Blue Line Bears, to purchase gala tickets or a sponsorship, visit www.BlueLineBears.org.
Burroughs Home and Garden is at 2505 First St. in Fort Myers.
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