A Florida teen is bringing comfort to families across the country during the worst time in their lives. Taking the uniforms of fallen officers, 15-year-old Megan O'Grady, is turning them into teddy bears for the families that have been left behind.
Megan's inspiration came when she was required to write an essay in school about "something she believed in." As the daughter of a Florida police officer, she was inspired by her father's work.
“Police officers aren’t treated as respectfully as they should be treated,” Megan said.
Last July, a peaceful protest in Dallas turned deadly when 12 officers were shot and 5 were killed. This prompted Megan to create Blue Line Bears and try to bring some comfort to the families during the tragedy.
With the help of her grandmother, Megan takes the uniform shirts and turns them into the teddy bears, using the officers' patches on the bears' arms, the buttons are used for the eyes and she embroiders their name and badge number on the bears' chest. She also stitches their End of Watch Date on the bears' foot.
Each bear also is given a St. Michael medal, which is typically wore by officers as a prayer for protection. Each one is blessed by a priest, free of charge, before the family receives it.
“They’re a piece of the family member that they lost. And obviously you can’t bring them back. That’s something I wish I could do, but I can’t. But it’s kind of a way to remember them,” Megan said.
Donations to the organization cover the cost of materials as well as shipping, and the results are a wonderful keepsake for the families.
Every day, Megan watches her dad leave home and put his life on the line as an officer for the Cape Coral Police Department.
“He’s my hero. That’s what he is to me. And I love him,” O’Grady said.
Her mother Suzie O'Grady is very proud of the work her daughter has taken on.
“It’s remarkable to see her have such purpose,” Suzie said. “To see that she can make a difference in the world at her age is inspiring to us as parents.”
The bears have touched 21 different states and more than 100 bears have been given out to 60 different families of fallen officers.
Megan's first bear was created for Johnny Brison, the son of fallen Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton. A 17-year veteran of the force, Clayton was fatally shot while confronting a murder suspect who was wanted the death of his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
“I always hugged her in her uniform, even before she went to work,”Johnny said. “We were that close. We talked every day, every hour.”
Megan then delivered 3 bears to the family of Deputy Norman Lewis who was killed in a car crash while searching for Clayton's killer.
“Norm Lewis’s parents, they were hard to deliver to. That one, I started sobbing,” Megan admits.
Coming full circle, Megan was able to deliver bears to the families of 3 of the officers that were killed in that deadly Dallas attack that prompted her to create her non-profit organization.
“It’s definitely hard having these bears, because obviously each one tells a different story, has a different family, a different person it belongs to,” Megan said. “That’s why I do it. Because no one else has.”