August 12 would have been the 40th anniversary of Constable Barry Small’s tenure with the Toronto Police Service.
The veteran officer succumbed to cancer nine days ago. He was 67.
But for a brief stint with the then-5 Traffic, Small was assigned to 55 Division during his law enforcement career. Over the decades, he has become well-known for a charitable act, delivering teddy bears to hospitals across the city in an effort to comfort sick children.
“As we were thinking how best we could honour Barry, we kept coming back to him and the teddy bears,” said Constable Christian Emond. “We decided to use Facebook to ask people how they would feel about bringing a teddy bear to his funeral and the response was overwhelming. Everyone was extremely supportive and it just felt like the right thing to do. I have two little girls, so I could just imagine how this can uplift kids and brighten their day.”
On August 12, 55 Division officers and Small’s family delivered seven bags of bears to The Hospital for Sick Children.
“We have over 300 in-patients at any given time,” said Joyce Fung, who received the donations on behalf of the hospital. “We also have 100 clinics that nearly 50 kids visit daily. The donations will make a huge impact on the kids. It gives them a little bit of comfort and provides a distraction when they are going through their procedures or scary moments. Our out-patients will also benefit from this kind gesture.”
Danielle Small, the deceased officer’s only child, said her father had a big heart and cared for children.
“I remember him going around to stores like Sears, the Bay and Toys ‘R’ Us and asking for donations of bears which he delivered to about 10 hospitals from December 24 to 26 each year,” she said.
To honour her father’s memory, Small will start the Barry Bears Foundation.
“I will try to see how many teddy bears I could collect and the plan is deliver them to hospitals possibly on December 26 annually,” she said. “That’s the least I could do to perpetuate his legacy. My father cared for people and would do anything to put a smile on someone’s face.”
Acting Superintendent Barbara McLean, 55 Division unit commander, said Small was hardworking, generous and well-liked by his colleagues.
“I met Barry the first time I was at the Division and he was someone his co-workers embraced,” she said. “He will be greatly missed.”
Toronto Police Association director Ed Costa and member benefits director Keith Bryan were also on hand for the donation.
“I was at 55 for 14 years and I met Barry when I got there,” recalled Bryan. “He was always smiling, everyone loved him and he was just a great guy with a big heart. He was just like the bears he delivered.”
Even while he was battling cancer, he didn’t allow it to affect his job or the way in which he interacted with people
Emond said Small’s loss is devastating.
“He had a presence that you could feel,” added Emond, who worked with Small on C platoon for a few years. “And, even while he was battling cancer, he didn’t allow it to affect his job or the way in which he interacted with people. We knew he was sick and fighting cancer, but we had no idea how bad it was because Barry showed up for work every day and just did his job with a smile. He was a great role model for young officers like me.”