It all began with an idea by Lt. John Nagel; he decided to transform the 2500 District Office into a winter wonderland for area children. This was similar to an idea his grandfather had as a Golden Valley fighter. Lt. Nagel’s grandfather transformed the Golden Valley Fire station into a winter wonderland for area kids when Lt. Nagel was a child. One of the Troopers dressed up as Santa Clause so children from the community could receive special treats at Christmas. The party went over very well although there were left over candy canes. Lt. Nagel had the idea to bring the remaining candy canes to the children at the University of Minnesota Hospital . Lt. Nagel may have intended this trip to be a one time visit except for a remark from a nurse. She stated “It’s great you came, but where are you guys the rest of the year?”
Lt. Nagel and the other Troopers took her words heart and to action! Since the Troopers delivered those first candy canes in 1985 the idea has grown into an annual event and community outreach program. In 1987 using the name Bears That Care State Troopers along with Teamsters Secretary Dan Girard incorporated Bears That Care into a registered tax exempt 501(C)(3) charity.
Bears That Care demonstrate caring more than once a year now. Bears That Care sponsor Halloween and Easter visits to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and to the Shriners Hospital. Bears That Care also visit a school in Lake Elmo . Smokey and McGruff even arrive by helicopter! At each visit Troopers arrive in uniform and plain clothes. District Office personnel have also attended to help pass out goodie bags of candy and little toys. On every visit a Trooper or office person will don the McGruff the Crime Dog and Smokey Bear costume. A digital photograph of the child with Smokey or McGruff is taken while receiving their goodie bags. The photo is left with the child as a memory of the event.
Financial support started out with: an insurance company, the Teamsters, the American Legion in Fridley and Spring Lake Park and the V.F.W in Blaine . All these organizations help Bears That Care get started. Bears That Care also purchased an enclosed trailer to bring supplies to the different events. An interesting item that was built for Bears That Care was a remote controlled squad car. The entire car is hand made and includes lights and a working siren. Currently financial support is mainly derived from the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association and donations from private individuals.
Bears That Care is able to exist because of the financial generosity of the Troopers Association and private donors. Another very important factor are the volunteers who make the trips to the hospitals and the school. Without the volunteers showing up, Bears That Care would cease to exist.
Bears That Care allow the public to see the human side of law enforcement. We get to show that Troopers do more than write tickets and investigate crashes.