TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — At Edible Arrangements in Tampa, owners Maria Simoni and her husband create gifts you can eat. They make baskets with chocolate-covered fruit as well as cupcakes, cheesecake and a lot more. Sometimes, their baskets also include a new Teddy Bear.
So when they heard the Rough Riders in Tampa were kicking off their annual John Winter Teddy Bear Roundup, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to donate dozens of new bears.
“The Edi bear has been a part of our brand for years,” Simoni said. “He’s kind of been a staple and he’s kind of been a cute add-on for kids.”
Maria said the Rough Riders have been a huge part of Tampa for years.
“They always do the Teddy Bear run and we thought what better way to get back involved in the community after COVID than donating some of our Edi Bears that we have a lot of to them and help them out with that.”
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.
WFLA TV has been a proud partner with the Rough Riders and their Teddy Bear Roundup ever since. The Rough Riders bring their Teddy Bears to children in hospitals, senior citizens and even to Veterans at the V.A. Hospital.
The Rough Riders were formed to honor the memory of Teddy Roosevelt and the original Rough Riders who fought in the Spanish American War in 1898. The stuffed animal was named the “Teddy Bear” after Roosevelt when he was President of the United States. The Rough Riders believe it’s also a fitting way to remember the influential president.
During the pandemic, however, the program was put on hold. Even though the organization is unable to visit most hospitals due to COVID restrictions, that’s starting to change.
“Very few of them are letting us in but so many people in the community are reaching out to us,” Rough Rider Greg Eckley said. “So, we are going to places like senior centers. A lot of people have been stuck in these senior centers without a lot of visitors, comfort, well we are able to go back into a lot of them so that’s where we have been focusing a lot of our time.”
He says the viewers of WFLA TV make it all possible with their donations.