TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Tampa Rough Riders have started collecting teddy bears for its annual “John Winter Teddy Bear Round Up.”

They will be one of the five charities benefitting from WFLA News Channel 8’s 13th Annual Kindness Day.

“Any bear, whether it’s a panda bear or a polar bear. We collect these and we take them out to the community,” Teddy Bear Committee Senior Advisor and Rough Rider Greg Eckley said.

The Rough Riders collect new, unused teddy bears to give to children in hospitals, cancer survivors, seniors and even veterans.

“So as a veteran, I really like going to the VA hospital. On Christmas Eve, typically, we go to the VA hospital and we’ll deliver hundreds of bears to the veterans that are patients,” Rough Riders President Billy Hogan said.

According to the Tampa Rough Riders, donations have been down with the pandemic. They are in need of medium-sized bears.

“It’s a way to make a connection. We use the bear as a way to unlock a conversation with somebody,” Eckley said.

The Rough Riders were formed to honor the memory of Teddy Roosevelt and the original Rough Riders.

John Winter, who worked as a meteorologist for WFLA-TV for many years, was also a member of the Rough Riders. He used his platform on Channel 8 to talk about the Rough Riders teddy bear donations.

As a result, people donated thousands of teddy bears.

Join us Friday, Dec. 10 in our WFLA visitor parking lot from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. for Kindness Day.