A record number of teddy bears are ready comfort children in difficult situations, thanks to the efforts of Legacy DeMolay members.

Midlothian High School students Kaleb Phipps, Austin Poovey, Santiago Duron and Rance Pitts, members of the local DeMolay chapter, a youth leadership organization dedicated to building young men of character and leadership, raised enough money to purchase a record 1,252 stuffed bears this year. They delivered the bears, each with a special tag explaining where they came from to the Scottish Rite, Cooks and Denton Regional hospitals, the Waxahachie Baptist Children's home, the Keen Fire Department where one of the Demolay's father works, and the Midlothian fire and police departments.

“It really means a lot because I know the bears are going to kids whose day is torn apart and this single bear is going to brighten their day,” said 16-year-old Pitts.

“It is a way to light up their faces as they are comforted,” added 17-year-old Duron.

The bears are given to children staying in the hospitals or children with family in the hospital, children arriving at the children's home who may not be bringing anything with them or children involved in emergency situations, the boys said.

The Midlothian Fire Department stocks each ambulance with the bears, as well as carrying a few on the engines and other department vehicles, said EMS captain Shawn Sims.

“We give them to any pediatric patient, like a broken arm, or if we are at the scene of a fire and there are kids around,” Sims said. “They are pretty popular.”

The bears can comfort a child or just make them more comfortable around the firefighters, he said.

“When there is a little kid involved and they are upset, it is a great tool for us. Sometimes the words can't express what a bear can. Some of us are kinda scary-looking to a hurt kid, but a bear can bridge that gap,” Sims said.

Midlothian police officers, especially the school resource officers, made good use of the bears, said police administrative sergeant Nick Harp.

The Legacy DeMolay members raised money for the bears through donation requests and fundraisers, 17-year-old Phipps said. This is the second year the chapter has purchased a combination of 6-inch and 9-inch bears.

Departments receiving the bears in previous years suggested that smaller bears would fit better inside vehicles and sealing them in plastic bags would prevent cross-contamination, said chapter adviser Felest Ingersoll. The chapter has donated more than 6,000 stuffed bears since the program began in 2009.

The Legacy Chapter was chartered in 2008. The chapter is involved in the community and several noteworthy charities including Relay for Life and Toys for Tots. To learn more, visit the organization's website or email legacy@txdemolay.org.

Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email bkurtz@waxahachietx.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.