SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Thirty years ago, Officer Brian Hardy had an idea.
Hardy told his chief, "Chief, I have this crazy idea. Let's put teddy bears in a police car and bring them up to Children's Hospital. I think the kids would really get a kick out of it."
Hardy was just a few years into being a member of the Coronado Police Department. He got the idea when, during a visit to Rady Children's Hospital, he noticed the toy collection bin.
"I asked the nurse at the station there why are there so few toys and she said donations are way down this year. We don't have a lot of toys for the kids in the hospital," said Hardy.
Hardy bought the first twelve bears himself. Then, the teddy bear drive started to spread to other law enforcement departments across the county.
They have collected as many as 75,000 teddy bears and a huge caravan delivers bears to Rady Children's Hospital every December.
Hardy said he'll never forget the impact bringing a little joy to one terminally ill child had on his fellow officers.
"This little girl was maybe 4, 5 years old and all those cops walked out of there crying their eyes out," said Hardy.
A few years later, Hardy found himself on the other side of things when a doctor at Rady told him his 2-year-old daughter's appendix had burst.
"He said my daughter's very sick she may not make it till morning, but he says, 'We're going to do our best to save her life,'" said Hardy.
They did and it happened to be the morning of the teddy bear caravan.
Hardy remembered, "It was like an episode of the 'Twilight Zone.' Things were turned around and I was in the hospital and the cops were coming with teddy bears."
Hardy has received many thank you notes over the years, but it's what one girl told him a few years ago that has stayed with him.
"She comes running up full clip and she says, 'You gave me a teddy bear when I was 5 years old,'" Hardy said.
He said the young woman now in her 20s told him, "I never forgot that."
Now, because of the pandemic, instead of collecting piles of bears, they are encouraging people to donate money to buy bears that go directly to the kids.
Officer Hardy is retired now, but still involved and has this message for the many generous donors.
"If you could see what we see, these children just light up when you bring them these bears," he said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you from all these thousands and thousands of kids at Children's Hospital."
If you'd like to make a monetary donation to buy teddy bears for the kids at Rady Children's Hospital, here's the web address: