Sometimes the comfort of a teddy bear can transform a child’s day full of traumatic events into a day of safety, comfort and hope.
This is the vision and goal of East Mesa resident Greg “Troll” Hughes, who brings comfort to children in some of the worst times by collecting hundreds of new teddy bears during Troll’s Teddy Bear Run.
“I know every single one of these fluffy toys is going to make a kid’s day,” Hughes said.
On Dec., 16, Mesa and Gilbert police picked up 1,122 new teddy bears and stuffed animals from American Bike and Trike in Gilbert as a result of local East Valley businesses and organizations.
During this year’s fourth annual Troll’s Teddy Bear Run earlier in the month, more than 100 motorcyclists took part in the 125-mile run from the bike store to a celebration at the Wahoo Restaurant and Bar in Gold Canyon.
Donations were also collected from sponsors, like the Arizona Patriot Guard Riders, a local Mesa motorcycle group, it donated 300 bears; East Valley resident Heather Budge Henry, who through her job donated 100 bears; Law Tigers Arizona and other organizations.
“We rely quite heavily on the community. Since Troll has taken over, the drive has increased exponentially,” said Shelly Ward, victim services administrator for Mesa Police Department’s Family Advocacy Center.
Ward explained the advocacy center often will interview children involved in sexual assaults or other traumatic events. After the interview, staff members will take the minor children into the “soft room” to select a comfort or support item. The room contains shelves of blankets, journals and soft toys.
“We want a place where everyone is treated with kindness and feels safe when they come here. We want them to know we are listening when they come here and we are invested in their process.” The teddy bears are part of a soothing bond with victims.
“For some, this may be their only possession,” Ward said of young victims of abuse or other trauma, especially those fleeing domestic violence situations with a parent.
Hughes said the Teddy Bear Run began at Chester’s Harley Davidson to collect stuffed toys for children involved with the Mesa Police Department’s Family Advocacy.
When Chester’s was sold to new owners and it looked like the annual run would end, Hughes at the last minute decided to take on the event and make it his annual service to the community.
Currently, the charity serves not only the advocacy center but has expanded to Mesa and Gilbert’s police and fire departments.
To donate visit TrollsBikerWorld.com or Troll’s Biker World on Facebook. American Bike and Trike will also now be accepting donations all year long at its Gilbert location, on Val Vista Drive and the San Tan Freeway, 3272 S 147th Place.