Waterford police look for owner of lost teddy bear

Waterford — Charlie Maffeo, the 9-year-old son of a Waterford police officer, was running around Veterans Memorial Field in December when something caught his eye — a teddy bear sitting all alone on a bench.

The only child in the park that day, Maffeo figured the bear was lost and sprang into action, running over to rescue the abandoned teddy. He knew that his dad, Officer Gil Maffeo, would know what to do. His dad was his hero, and he would get the bear home.

So, at the fourth-grader's instruction, his grandmother Ann Antley drove Charlie and the unnamed bear over to the police station, where Charlie asked to see his dad right away. Clutching the dirty, wet toy, Charlie looked up at his dad, pleading for help.

At first, Officer Maffeo suggested his son bring the bear back to the park, in case the owner came looking for him. But Charlie was insistent — the bear needed the police's help.

"I was a little upset because I knew the owner was probably crying," Charlie said last week, remembering his desperate pleas for assistance in his rescue mission.

So, Officer Maffeo did his due diligence, logging the beige, fuzzy bear into the system as found property and gave the bear a seat atop a filing cabinet in the records department. It didn't take long for Chief Brett Mahoney to spot the new decoration and ask about it. Maffeo told his chief the bear's harrowing saga of being lost in the park and asked if he could help spread the word on social media. In the two months since, the bear has become somewhat of a local celebrity.

The bear made its social media debut on Dec. 19 and gained quite a bit of attention. More than 1,000 people reposted the department's initial post, a series of three photos of the bear, including one that shows an officer pretending to interrogate the fuzzy toy.

The post said the bear "looks well loved and we're sure someone is missing the little buddy." The department, which is notoriously comedic on its social media platforms, added that "the bear isn't giving us any clues as to who they belong with."

On Valentine's Day, the department again asked for the public's help finding the bear's rightful owner and asked for suggestions for naming the smiling little fellow. "We're looking for originality, Beary McBearface ain't gonna cut it!" the post said.

More than 170 people commented with their suggestions, ranging from Watson, Sarge, Copper and "P.O. Lancer the Bear" to Donut, Ursula and Charlie, after the boy who found him.

In the new photo, the bear was sitting next to an energy drink and a doughnut — items Lt. Marc Balestracci said the officers get a lot of flack for consuming too many of.

"As we work 24/7, we've given Officer bear a steady diet of energy drinks and donuts, trying to fatten it up and keep it ready for the next person to arrive at the window in records," said the post.

Chief Mahoney said he decided to give the bear another shot at fame on Facebook after seeing that he'd been cleaned up. In the Valentine's Day post, the bear had a sticky note on its chest that said he'd been given a bath and was "nice and clean."

"One of our secretaries had taken the time to clean the little guy because he was a little disheveled when he came in," said Mahoney.  The bear was taken home by secretary Jennifer Anderson, who has been with the department for about 20 years and made sure it would be in top shape in the event of a reunion with its owner. Since the bear is still technically found property, he was promptly returned to the station.

"We're having a little fun on social media," said Balestracci. "But in all seriousness, it is found property."

Balestracci said he wasn't surprised that Charlie brought the bear in and asked for his dad's help, and that the department was happy to oblige.

"He wants to be a police officer when he gets older, he thinks his dad basically saves the world," said Balestracci of the bear's young rescuer.

Charlie said that he had no doubt his dad and his fellow officers would be happy to help.

"I knew someone was probably driving somewhere around town looking for it and if police post it, and the owner's friends saw it, they could let the owner know that it's at the police department," said Charlie.

The fourth-grader at Nathan Hale Magnet School in New London said he thinks the police department will be successful in finding the owner, because helping people is what they do. Charlie said he plans to follow in his father's footsteps someday.

"When I grow up, I don't care if I get pepper sprayed, I just want to be like my daddy and help people," Charlie said.

In Waterford, police often use their social media pages to try to help people, engaging with residents through witty, entertaining posts. They take to Facebook to seek help catching criminals, to share updates on solved crimes, to let residents know about events, and now, to help lost toys.

"This is one way that we can engage directly, and it can be a way that isn't always when people aren't in crisis," said Balestracci.

Chief Mahoney agreed that using social media allows the department to connect with residents in a positive way.

"We try to have a positive look on our social media, people help us with finding criminals from time to time and we have historically tried to give people a look into what we do on a daily basis," said Mahoney.  "This helps with that, and I'm sure there's some little kid out there looking for their teddy bear."

Lt. Balestracci said that the bear will be given an official name if it isn't claimed by Feb. 29. If his owner doesn't come to claim him, the bear might be given a role at his new police department. "I'll put that thing to work," said Mahoney.

Or, the bear may go home with his hero for a life of leisure with Charlie, who said that if he gets to keep the bear he'll "play with him and sleep with him and take him on adventures."

The bear was found at Veterans Memorial Field around Dec. 19. It has a tag in the center that says "All the Gospel to All the World John Hagee Ministries."




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