ELMSDALE, P.E.I. - During the 12 years they ran the campaign, Edna Gallant said her family were deeply touched by the widespread support their annual Chad Gallant Memorial Teddy Bear Drive received from family, friends and even strangers.
“Families said kids would save their money and buy teddies and come bring them to the door when it was time to turn them in,” she said.
The bears collected ultimately end up with Prince District RCMP and other first responders who hand them out as comfort toys to children who have been through a trying experience, such as an injury or a collision.
On Monday - the 13th anniversary of Chad Gallant’s death - his mother and father, Edna and Bruce Gallant, his daughter Jasmyn Coughlin, 14, and his brother Brett arrived at the West Prince RCMP detachment with the proceeds of the 12th annual campaign — 253 teddy bears.
“(Chad) was hit by a drug-impaired driver. He was killed instantly. He was on the way to Summerside to a hockey game," Edna said. "Jasmyn’s Mom was with him. She was okay. Jasmyn had stayed with us that night.”
“If you have the unfortunate instance to have to bury your child, that never goes away. It’s always there,” said Bruce.
This is the last year the family is running the campaign.
“In the beginning it was five years we were going to do it and it ended up we did it 12,” said Edna.
The campaign has collected more than 3,600 bears in total.
The Summerside Western Capitals have held an annual Teddy Bear Toss in support of the family's campaign, and prior to that ScotiaBank Summerside collected teddy bears during the city's Santa Claus Parade.
Because each of the teddy bears is tagged "In loving memory of Chad Gallant, March 26, 1982–Jan. 14, 2006", the Gallants have heard back from several families of some of the recipients.
“To know people are still going to be bringing teddy bears and they will get distributed whichever way the Caps wish to distribute them, it makes us happy."
A young girl was rushed to hospital by her grandmother after choking. An officer happened to be there and gave her a teddy bear.
A family was in a collision and one of the children was taken to hospital and given a teddy bear.
“The family contacted us to say how much it had meant to the little girl in the hospital, so we got teddy bears to the other two kids,” Edna said.
An upset child of a mother pulled over for speeding got one.
From every annual collection, Jasmyn has been able to pick out one teddy bear to keep.
“I think it helped me a lot, just to try to comfort me about everything that happened,” Jasmyn said.
Western Capitals general manager Pat McIver has confirmed the hockey club will continue to hold a December Teddy Bear Toss, despite the end of the Gallants' campaign.
“It’s fun, and people enjoy it at the game and it goes to a good cause,” McIver said. “We look forward to having it again next year.”
The team hasn’t decided how to distribute the toys going forward, but McIver said the bears will end up with people in need.
“We’ll make sure they get into good hands,” he said.
“To know people are still going to be bringing teddy bears and they will get distributed whichever way the Caps wish to distribute them, it makes us happy,” said Bruce.
Every year, prior to the presentation of the teddy bears, the Gallants have hosted an evening where family and friends drop in to add the Chad Gallant tags to the donated bears.
“This year being the last year, I’ve had everybody who helped over the years and I had a supper for them,” Edna said. “They all came and had supper first and then tagged the bears.”
West Prince RCMP officers were out on calls when the Gallants dropped in with bags of teddy bears on Monday, but Staff Sgt. Derrick Hewitt relayed thanks on behalf of first responders and said the gesture means a lot to the young recipients and their families.
Edna said her son would have loved the campaign.
“He loved to see smiles on children’s faces. He always liked to make the kids happy.”