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Donated bears give police new way to comfort children

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 10, 2019

 Grosse Pointe Shores resident Sharon Peters talks about her Chaney’s Champions bear donation to local law enforcement agencies Nov. 15 inside the Grosse Pointe Woods City Council chambers.

Grosse Pointe Shores resident Sharon Peters talks about her Chaney’s Champions bear donation to local law enforcement agencies Nov. 15 inside the Grosse Pointe Woods City Council chambers.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Police and public safety officers in several departments in metro Detroit now have a new tool at their disposal to help them comfort children in the most difficult situations.

Thanks to a gift from Grosse Pointe Shores resident Sharon Peters, a total of 250 Chaney’s Champions Chaney Bears were donated to the public safety departments of Grosse Pointe City, Farms, Park, Shores and Woods, along with Harper Woods; the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department; and the police departments of St. Clair Shores, Eastpointe, Roseville and Warren.

The cuddly, friendly faced stuffed animals — made by Gund — were delivered by hand to officers in the respective departments by Chaney’s Champions Treasurer Lee Worsley during a presentation Nov. 15 in the City Council chambers of Grosse Pointe Woods.

Based in Apex, North Carolina, the nonprofit Chaney’s Champions was founded in 2016 to honor the memory of Chaney James Corcoran, who died at 10 weeks old of sudden infant death syndrome, better known as SIDS.

Each Chaney’s Champions bear comes with a tag that reads: “This teddy bear is a gift to you from Chaney’s Champions in memory of Chaney James, a sweet baby boy who brought us indescribable joy that will last forever. We hope this bear brings you the same comfort and joy that baby Chaney James brought his family and friends in a short period of time. Small tokens and acts of kindness will help keep Chaney’s memory alive. You too can be one of Chaney’s Champions by paying it forward in some small way to spread love and compassion. In memory of sweet Chaney, champion on…”

“We’re so thrilled and really appreciate Sharon reaching out to (us),” said Worsley, who was Chaney’s uncle.

He said this is “more than just a bear.”

“We want to pay kindness forward around the world, where (it can be hard to find),” Worsley said. “By doing that, we’ll keep Chaney’s memory alive.”

By the end of 2019, Chaney’s Champions will have distributed more than 1,500 bears to law enforcement agencies, most in North Carolina and Virginia, the latter being where Chaney was born and where his parents still live. This donation marks the first time that Chaney’s Champions bears have been given to Michigan law enforcement agencies.

“It’s a goodwill gesture for some young child who is going through something traumatic,” Peters said.

Peters is well-known to law enforcement around Michigan for her donations for K-9s.

Harper Woods public safety officer Steve Johnson, the K-9 handler for German shepherd Kaiser, praised Peters for all of her work to support K-9 officers with equipment, such as protective vests and Buddy Bags for K-9s, the latter of which Peters said are medical bags that include Narcan in case the dogs come into contact with fentanyl during a drug search. Even very small amounts of fentanyl — commonly mixed with heroin — can be deadly for humans or animals, so having the ability to administer Narcan immediately to reverse the effects of a drug overdose is critical.

“I appreciate Sharon for doing this,” Johnson said. “She has supported me since I got my K-9, and she has supported all of the (local) K-9 units.”

For Peters and her sister, Pat Settimo, of Williamsburg, Virginia, this project is personal. The gifts are in memory of their late father, Detective Lt. Richard Scott, who served in the Roseville Police Department for more than 34 years. Peters said her father — who died in 2010 at age 79 — was in law enforcement for about 50 years, starting with a stint as a member of the Air Force military police.

“My sister and I are always looking for another outlet to honor him,” Peters said. “We decided to honor my dad with this (program) before the holidays … for crisis situations.”

St. Clair Shores police officer Travis Kaufman, the K-9 handler of German shepherd Rocky, believes that the bears will be a great help.

“Our officers are always looking for another way to interact with the public,” Kaufman said. “We run into a lot of situations where kids are in hardship.”

Other officers on hand echoed that sentiment.

Guy Angelucci, a Warren police officer and the K-9 handler of Belgian Malinois-German shepherd mix Astra, said that Warren — as the third-largest city in Michigan — sees children caught in a multitude of challenging situations, including domestic violence incidents.

“It’s something to give kids to give them some hope,” Angelucci said of the bears.

Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Director John Kosanke was happy to be able to host the bear distribution event.

“I think (the bears) will help (the officers) handle situations where we have a child who is upset or traumatized,” Kosanke said. “It’s another tool an officer has for working through difficult situations.”

Worsley said they’ve gotten feedback that the bears have made a difference.

“We’ve heard from a couple of parents that the bears really meant a lot,” he said. “I think for a couple of kids that the bear has become their go-to stuffed animal. … We intentionally (chose to) do big bears because we want them to be special.”

For Chaney’s parents — who are now parents to nearly 2-year-old twins — Worsley said Chaney’s Champions has been a source of comfort. In every family photo, he said, they include one of the bears to represent Chaney.

“We hope it makes a child more at ease and helps a law enforcement officer do that job,” Worsley said. “It’s been very heartwarming and fulfilling.”

A mother of three adult children and a grandmother of four, Peters is also a pet parent to three field trial black Labradors — a female dog and two 18-month-old pups. She said her father was also a big animal lover, and remembers the family taking in strays when she was growing up in Roseville.

“We always had animals growing up,” Peters said. “They’re a joy to be around.”

Peters believes her late father would be pleased by the projects that she and her sister have undertaken in his memory.

“I think that he would be happy that we chose that arena to give back,” Peters said. “It encompasses animals, and it encompasses law enforcement.”