Katy-originated Teddy Cop program expanding to Puerto Rico

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 3/16/22

Six years ago, Katy ISD police officer Luis Santiago decided to do something special for life skills students in the district. He worked with Build A Bear, the company known for creating customized stuffed bears, to create a bear dressed like a Katy ISD police officer. Santiago distributes those Teddy Cops, as they are called, to students.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Katy-originated Teddy Cop program expanding to Puerto Rico

Posted

Six years ago, Katy ISD police officer Luis Santiago decided to do something special for life skills students in the district. He worked with Build A Bear, the company known for creating customized stuffed bears, to create a bear dressed like a Katy ISD police officer. Santiago distributes those Teddy Cops, as they are called, to students.

“Police officers are intimidating,” Santiago said. “By doing the Teddy Cop program, I thought, let’s dress them up as officers and use them to break that stigma. Every child loves a teddy bear. Now you have an officer introducing a teddy bear dressed up as an officer.”

The life skills students feel that the bear is good, and therefore, the officer is good, Santiago said.

“They feel comfortable around us,” Santiago said, adding that over 2,600 bears have been distributed locally since the program began.

“Our primary job is to serve our district and the community, and what better way than helping out and educating our special needs children in getting the trust of the families,” Santiago said.

The program has gained attention from outside the Katy area. Santiago’s sister is a special needs teacher living in Puerto Rico. She felt the Teddy Cops would be a welcome addition to students there.

Santiago agreed, and he’s spending spring break this week in Puerto Rico, delivering bears to approximately 375 children in eight schools and a hospital across eight cities on the island.

Getting the bears to Puerto Rico proved a challenge in itself.

“At first, we wanted to ship them by freight,” Santiago said. “But we were told there were no guarantees if they went by freight. We were told that using the local post office would work, as long as the boxes were standard-sized.”

Santiago took 16 boxes of bears to the U.S. Postal Service for shipment.

“They have similar uniforms to Puerto Rico officers,” Santiago said. “It’s a bit different with the Puerto Rican flag on it. They are specifically for children in Puerto Rico.”

Santiago said he hasn’t been to Puerto Rico in the past 15 years. His family roots are in the towns of Caguas and San Lorenzo, both of which are on the central eastern side of the island, just below San Juan.

In recent years, Puerto Rico has gone through hurricanes and two major earthquakes. He said his sister has returned to in-person teaching after an absence due to these events.

“Everything was being done online,” Santiago said. “It’s getting there. You still have rural areas where they’re having problems. They’ve been working on the electrical grid so they won’t have rolling blackouts.”

While his family has Puerto Rican ties, Santiago himself was born in New York City. He moved to Philadelphia, where he married and began a family. But they decided they wanted to live in a better area. They saw Katy, his wife had family in the community, and they came to Texas. He has been with the Katy ISD police for 10 years.

The program remains strong in Katy. Santiago said he has relied on the goodness of people in Katy to help when it comes to purchasing the bears for the students. Recently, people have begun sponsoring individual students. Those interested in sponsoring a student or making a donation are asked to contact their local Katy ISD elementary school.

“This is an awesome program,” Santiago said. “My goal was to extend it out as far as I can. It’s getting there, slowly but surely. My goal was to promote this program to other departments and to kids that really need it.”

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here