Charlie and Rhonda called their son “Bear.”
Now they want to remember him with bears.
Their son, Charles Andrew Walters, died Nov. 11, 2007 in a Star Valley car accident.
He was 18 years old at the time of his death, and was on his way to the Walters’ family cabin in Forest Lakes.
The teen’s death rocked family and friends who today remember him partly through the “Comfort Bear” Department of Public Safety program.
DPS officers carry the toy bears in the trunks of their cars and use them to immediately console kids impacted by tragedy. Sgt. Jimmy Chavez, the President of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, says the supply of “Comfort Bears” has dwindled to the lowest level ever.
So, AHPA officers are collecting new stuffed animals to console children impacted by trauma.
At the Walters family home in Gilbert, Charlie and Rhonda are collecting donated bears which they will soon deliver to the AHPA to then be distributed to patrol officers.
“We always called Andy ‘Bear,’ a name originally derived from ‘Andy the Pandy Bear,’ much to his chagrin, so it (the Comfort Bears) seemed like a logical tie in,” Charlie said. “We are grateful for the time God gave us with Andy, but miss him terribly. If only we could get one more ‘Bear’ hug.”
For every bear donated, the Walters make a donation to the Andy Walters Visual Arts Scholarship fund at Tempe Marcos de Niza High School, where Andy graduated.
While the “Comfort Bear” program has its roots in Maricopa County, it is being expanded to the Rim Country.
Anyone who would like to donate a toy stuffed bear in Andy’s name, may drop it off at the offices of the Payson Roundup, 708 N. Beeline Highway. The toys will be given to DPS officers to be used in emergencies.