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Blue Line Bears
May 22, 2020

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A young woman who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children of fallen law enforcement officers began a nonprofit organization in 2016.

Megan O'Grady, a senior who recently graduated from Bishop Verot High School, started Blue Line Bears after the 2016 Dallas shooting when a gunman opened fire on a group of police officers, killing five and injuring nine. She said with her father being an officer for the Cape Coral Police Department, she decided to step up and do something for the families of those officers.

"When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, I take their uniform shirts and turn them into teddy bears to give to the children," O'Grady said.

To date, O'Grady has made more than 730 teddy bears, which have gone to more than 40 states, Canada, Afghanistan, England and Malta.

"I feel very blessed to be able to do this. I couldn't have done it without the support of my parents and local businesses. I feel I am making a big impact on the world by doing this. It's really great to see that I am able to change lives if I put in the effort to do so," she said.

The thought behind Blue Line Bears evolved from a teddy bear O'Grady received from her great grandma. She said she wanted to give children something more personal, rather than something they had to put away because they could possibly damage it, or sending a random teddy bear.

The teddy bear is completely made out of the officer's uniform shirt with embroidery on the chest with their name and number. The foot has the end of office date and the hand has the recipient's name.

The recipients of the bears are from people reaching out to Blue Line Bears, such as families, friends or the police department themselves. O'Grady said they will also call the police department and ask if a family would be interested in Blue Line Bears.

She said the organization was recently tagged on Instagram from a family that received a Blue Line Bear. O'Grady said the post showed children sleeping with the bears.

"Having that sense of purpose is so amazing. I know what I am doing is worthwhile," she said.

The young woman said her dad has been very supportive from the beginning of the organization forming.

"He helps out as much as he can," O'Grady said, "which is amazing. This has been a good bonding experience because we get to go to different places together and impact lives together. He loves doing it as much as I do because he likes making a difference in the world. It's good for both of us."

This past Saturday, O'Grady was supposed to attend her graduation ceremony, which did not take place due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead someone came to her home to take professional pictures of O'Grady in her cap and gown. What followed was a complete surprise, a parade of more than 146 cars and motorcycles celebrating her achievement.

The parade, she said, was of friends, family and individuals from different police departments.

"It felt really nice because I didn't realize how many people I have impacted and how many people have impacted me. To see them all come together . . . They recognize that I didn't get the graduation that I really deserved and one that I really wanted. So being able to see all of them together was so amazing," O'Grady said. "I couldn't stop crying because all of these people that showed up in that parade means so much to me."

She described it as an amazing experience.

O'Grady is going to pursue her education at the University of Central Florida with a double major in psychology and nonprofit management. She said she wants to see Blue Line Bears continue, which she believes the degree will help her achieve. The second major --psychology -- she wants to pursue to help police officers with PTSD.

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