BeKind UNM, an initiative of the University of New Mexico Office of Student Affairs, collected the stuffed toys in boxes placed throughout the campus during the week before and the week of Valentine’s Day.
The donations were made by both students and staff at the university, said UNM student affairs chief Kim Kloeppel. “We want to promote kindness and safety, and promote the ability to help each other,” she said.
The presentation of the toys was made during a news conference Friday in the offices of Mayor Richard Berry, where the speaker’s podium was surrounded by a mound of stuffed bears, dogs, chimps, penguins, zebras, rabbits and more.
“Our police officers do difficult work, and many times they will be on scene where a child has been traumatized,” Berry said. “Not only do our police officers provide kindness on the scene, but they have a little something to give a child as an expression of kindness from our community, and that goes a long way.”
In thanking Kloeppel and UNM, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden said, “It’s a blessing to the children of the community that we serve and we’re able to pay it forward because of what you do.”
Every day, APD officers encounter children in a variety of circumstances, “whether it’s responding to a domestic fight call or dealing with abandoned children,” Eden said. “These toys help establish a bond between that police officer and that child,” and they provide comfort and open lines of communication to reinforce “friendship and a level of trust,” he said.
“I can’t imagine being at an age of 5 or 7 years old and have something traumatic happen, but then being able to receive that toy from that officer builds a bridge. That’s what this whole program is about. Regardless of the age, it’s about being kind to one another.”
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