Ohio inmates make stuffed animals for first responders

Marion Correctional Institution inmates are busy making stuffed animals that will be kept inside deputies’ cruisers in case of an incident involving young children.

COLUMBUS, Ohio—For some it is a way to give back. For others it is a time to reflect on their decisions, unwind, and heal.

American Veterans Post 42 is like no other AMVETS group in Ohio. It was established 5 years ago and now there are 26 members, and many others on the waitlist. Those that are on the waitlist have nothing but time.

All AMVETS Post 42 members are incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution. They knit, sew, and crochet for causes. One of the latest donations was to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Teddy bears, all different shapes, sizes and patterns, are kept inside deputies’ cruisers in case of an incident involving young children.

“If you talk to any law enforcement officer, the toughest thing to deal with are kids that are put in situations like that,” said Sheriff Matt Bayles. “They’re traumatized by it or being hurt in an accident. There’s a domestic violence situation where they might see one parent assaulting the other. It’s very difficult to come into a situation like that.”

Bayles says even if it takes a child’s mind off of the trauma for a moment, it is worth it.

“You’ll see their face light up for a second when they see something like this and they’ll grab but not look up their mom or dad and make sure it’s okay with them,” Bayles said. “And we always make sure it’s okay with him to before we do it. But it’s it kind of warms your heart a little bit… but it’s going to show them we care we care about them we care about their families.”

The makers of the stuffed animals see a benefit from it.

“This program is really about not letting your past define you and giving back,” said Marcus Bloomfield, an inmate at MCI. “Just because we made a mistake in our past doesn’t mean that we can’t do something good now. This is a therapy program. This is not only just helping the kids out, it’s also helping yourself out to relax, and to decompress from the situation that we’re currently in.”

“They don’t have to do that. It’s all voluntary, they’re not getting paid to do that they have other jobs that they do. They’re there, they’re doing that on their own, they choose to come down and we don’t force them to come down there,” said Warden Leon Hill. “[Materials are] not purchased with state dollars or taxes or anything. It’s these guys doing fundraiser events and it’s all money that they have raised and has come from other incarcerated adults.”

Money, the Warden says, is earned at their day jobs around MCI.

“We want to put out a positive message as opposed to the negative everybody sees prison and they see how bad it is,” said Bloomfield. “Well, that’s not what we want to put out. We want to put out that just because we’re in here, we want to do good. And the more opportunities we have to do good, the better.”

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