Nan’s Comfort Critters Help Cops

Sacramento Region, CA  |  Story and photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner
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Carmichael octogenarian Nan Fellers collects and repairs soft toys to comfort traumatized children in police care.

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - All kids love soft toys. But a child whose life is in crisis really needs something to cuddle.

At accident or domestic crime scenes, terrified children often end up in police cars. Police officers – frequently parents themselves – know the value of a huggable teddy. “A soft toy gives traumatized children comfort,” says Carmichael grandmother Nancy Fellers. “It also makes a police officer less frightening.” From several Sheriff’s deputies in her own family, Nancy (86) learned that cops bought emergency toys with their own money. She decided a stitch in time was called for.

For the past 20 years, the retired school teacher and travel agent has collected, cleaned and repaired thousands of what she calls “stuffies.” Used or new, the comfort critters come her way from church friends, fellow Kiwanians and neighbors.

Nancy’s mission has turned her Carmichael home into a virtual Pooh Corner, but she has the support of her 88-year-old husband, retired ARC professor Bill. “When we get used stuffies, we always wash them,” explains Nancy. “Many need to be re-stuffed – you’d be surprised what some manufacturers fill them with. If a toy gets a hole in it, a child could ingest some really awful stuff.” After revitalizing each critter, she adds a new bow to each fluffy neck; she and husband Bill then deliver the individually-bagged stuffies to Sheriff’s headquarters in Rancho Cordova. Here, big burly cops select bunnies, bears and monkeys to store in patrol cars for emergencies. “The officers are always glad to see me,” says Nancy. “They know I come with gifts that make their job easier. To a frightened child, a cuddly critter helps children see officers as kind and caring. In these situations, a toy is a necessary part of police work. I don’t see why deputies should have to pay for them.”

Though she loves her vocation, the octogenarian hopes to eventually bag her last bunny and find a successor. “The work hardly costs anything and it takes little time,” she says. “All you need is a washing machine, some basic sewing skills and a kind heart.”

To donate new or gently-used toys or to learn about Nancy Fellers’ comfort-critter project, email