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Holiday cheer

Their smiles said a thousand words, and their eyes sparkled with joy as though they were the brightest stars of the night sky.

Saturday, December 23, 2000

Their smiles said a thousand words, and their eyes sparkled with joy as though they were the brightest stars of the night sky.

That’s the effect Ohio Highway Patrol troopers said their visits with children produced when they traveled around to Tri-State hospitals Friday.

"We visited four hospitals with Teddy Trooper," OHP Lt. Carl Roark said. "Teddy Trooper brought with him three off-duty troopers in uniform and three other highway patrol employees as volunteers."

They visited about 40 children at St. Mary’s and Cabell Huntington Hospital, King’s Daughters Medical Center and Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

River Valley Health System didn’t have any children in pediatrics for Teddy Trooper to visit, they said.

Teddy Trooper’s objective? To spread a little holiday cheer to hospitalized children and provide them with a positive experience with troopers.

"We make a special visit just prior to the Christmas holiday to cheer them up a little," Roark said. "We give the children small teddy bears, coloring books and a mixture of candy and gifts we put together in small packages, in addition to spending time with them. Obviously, we do this with safety in mind."

As a member of Ohio Troopers Caring, the big gray teddy bear with his OHP trooper hat has won smiles from many of the area’s sick and afflicted children for the past eight years, the OHP Ironton post commander said.

"We want to try to teach them the importance of safety," Roark said. "By bringing Teddy Trooper, we are very successful in putting a smile on their face and we are successful in accomplishing our mission – teaching safety."

And, the three uniformed troopers who traveled with Teddy gave their own gift.

"This isn’t an on-duty affair," Roark said. "They do this on their own time. It’s a great feeling to be able to go in there and talk to the children in an environment that does not involve any danger or a crisis we are there to handle. It creates a positive image of the Ohio Highway Patrol."

Roark said teaching a positive image to the young generations is important.

"It’s extremely important to develop a positive relationship between the youth and law enforcement," he said. "Society has made it difficult for law enforcement personnel to be as effective as we can possibly be without this communication."