For each of the past 10 years, the Fraternal Order of Court Officers (FOCO) of New York State has held a teddy bear collection drive for needy and sick children, 9,370 by estimates.
Monday afternoon at the Nassau County Courthouse the annual teddy bear drive display got a little larger thanks to donations by cheerleaders from Locust Valley who have been aiding the program for several years.
FOCO President Sgt. Joe Canella thanked each of the girls for their donations as this year the pile was a bit smaller due to the shortened time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"Hopefully we get some last-minute donations," he said.
Also expressing her thanks was Nassau Judge Tammy Robbins, herself from Locust Valley, who took the cheerleaders into one of the side courtrooms and spoke to them for a brief moment after they had donated the bears.
The idea for the teddy bear drive first came about when Cannella was driving the families of Court officers who had fallen during the 9/11 attacks into Manhattan for a memorial ceremony. The commander, Nancy Puglise, had organized a teddy bear drive where the ceremony was being held.
The first year the drive was held, a display was only placed in Supreme Court, but has since expanded to each of the five court buildings. Cannella recalls that first year Kristin Smith, a student at Our Lady of Lourdes in Malverne, initiated a school teddy bear drive to help.
The cheerleader have been chipping in to the drive since 2008, arrived a bit late at the courthouse in a bus, but with each carrying a bear to donate.
The order also hands out special pins in the shape of bears with officer badges for those who donate two or more bears. Each of the cheerleaders also received one Monday.
Officers will soon distribute the bears to children Franklin General Hospital, Winthrop University-Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House, Schneider/ Cohn's Children's Hospital, Pediatric Oncology Ward and the Interfaith Nutrition Network. The INN is typically the biggest recipient of the bears.