Police Rescue Hungry Child Trying to Sell His Teddy Bear for Food
News| | By Valerie Cools
Kids today are industrious and resourceful. Whether they’re running a classic lemonade stand or making safety gear for Pokémon Go players, it’s not unusual for children to try their hand at being an entrepreneur, just for the fun of it.
But one little boy spotted last week in front of a CVS in Franklin, Ohio was not there for fun: He hadn’t eaten in days and was desperate for money to buy food. And the only way he could think of to make money quickly was to sell his teddy bear.
Police officer Steve Dunham received a call that a child was wandering the streets alone. He found the 7-year-old boy in front of the drug store, hoping to find someone who would buy his stuffed toy, so he could buy some food.
“It broke my heart,” Dunham told WLWT5.
Dunham knew he had to help the boy. He took him to the nearby Subway restaurant, bought him a sandwich and ate with him.
“We said a little prayer and had dinner together,” said the officer.
Dunham then took the boy back to the police department, while other officers visited the child’s home. They found that the family was living in shocking conditions. The house was covered in trash and smelled of urine. What little food was in the refrigerator had rotted mostly beyond recognition.
Officers also found the boy’s four older brothers, aged 11, 12, 15, and 17. The officers fed the youngest kids before having them removed from the house by child services, and the parents, identified as Tammy and Michael Bethel, were placed under arrest. They have pleaded not guilty to five counts each of child endangerment.
Dunham joined his colleagues at the scene, leaving the 7-year-old to watch cartoons at the station. When Dunham returned, the boy proved just how resilient kids can be.
“I came back to check on him, and he was hiding,” said Dunham. “He jumped out to scare me when I came back in the building. He got me real good!”
Police Chief Russ Whitman has praised his officers’ work, and hopes their actions will change the family’s future for the better.
“[Police] treated them like their own kids, and that’s exactly what law enforcement does in situations like this: How would we want someone to treat our kids? Hopefully, these officers’ actions change these kids’ lives, and maybe change the lives of the parents to become better parents.”
Victim Witness Advocate Nikki Hawkins emailed the Franklin Police Department to thank them for their kindness. The message was posted on the Department’s Facebook page.
“We see sad cases all the time and sometimes it just feels like ‘another day in the life,’” wrote Hawkins, “but you all fed this little boy and his brothers and made him feel safe in the middle of a nasty situation. […] I know you do stuff like this for your community all the time and we don’t see or hear about it. The way you treated and took care of this little guy touched my heart.”
Donations are being accepted by St Vincent de Paul to further help the boys. Mrs. Bethel has been commenting on the Franklin Police Department’s Facebook page that her sons do not need money, and to claim that the children had in fact eaten, and that their home is usually well kept, according to the NY Daily News.
The five brothers have been placed in the care of a relative. While this situation remains heartbreaking, we can hope that the little boy’s teddy bear will stay with him as a reminder of the kindness he received.