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Date    11.3.05
Contact   Chinika Hood  601.266.5568


HATTIESBURG – Six years ago, a cousin of University of Southern Mississippi senior Kayla Grice found himself in the middle of a terrible accident in which he received a concussion. Despite the frightening moments that ensued, what the now 15-year-old remembers most about the incident is the Dalmatian stuffed animal toy that officers gave him in their efforts to ease the pain of his traumatic experience.

To this day, the stuffed toy remains close to Nathan Grice’s heart, and it is the primary motivation behind the Southern Miss Campus Civitan Club’s annual Bears on Patrol drive.

Formed three years ago by his cousin and former club president Grice, Bears on Patrol aims to collect stuffed animals for the Hattiesburg Police Department (HPD) to carry in their patrol cars to console children involved in upsetting events, according to Crystal Broome, current president of the Civitan Club.

The bear drive is a growing success as the university community has donated 387 bears this year, exceeding last year’s total of 350. Hattiesburg Police Captain D.J. Davis said he’s personally witnessed the benefits the bears have provided not only for the community but for the department, too.

HPD’s Community Development Specialist Robin Walker agrees that Bears on Patrol has made a significant influence in that officers are able to establish a positive relationship between youth and law enforcement, even in the midst of a negative experience.

“When a child is involved in an accident, no matter the severity, they can be afraid of what is going on around them and intimidated by a uniformed police officer,” said Walker. “The officer is able to use the stuffed animal to make a connection with that child.”

The effectiveness of the bear drive has made Broome and fellow members of the Southern Miss Campus Civitan Club very proud and eager to do more.

“I believe it is very important to make a difference in our community,” said Broome. “It is up to us to make our own community the best it can be. We can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do it.”

The Southern Miss Campus Civitan Club is now in its fifth year. Created by Southern Miss Student Activities Secretary Melissa Carpenter, the organization is constantly involved in projects that benefit the campus and the Pine Belt community as a whole. The group has spearheaded numerous charitable events raising money for the Civitan International Research Center, the Special Olympics and the March of Dimes.

In February, the organization was rewarded the 2005 International Service Project of the Year award for a project dubbed “Fill the Stocking Toy Drive and Party.” Other awards include the International Honor Club Award and the 2005 Campus Club of the Year. The group has also racked up on individual honors.

To learn more about Bears on Patrol and the Southern Miss Campus Civitan Club, call 601-266-5568.

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Last updated: 12/22/05

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