‘Blue Line Bears’ brings healing for slain officer’s son
ORLANDO, Fla. The patch’s contours were all too familiar for Johnny Brinson.
It brought back memories. Good memories.
It was the patch worn by his mother, Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton.
Clayton was shot and killed in the line of duty on Jan. 9.
“Out of all the gifts I have received, this is one of the best because I always hugged her in her uniform, even before she went to work, while she was on duty because we were that close,” Brinson said. “We talked every day, every hour. Seeing this patch, feeling it again. I thought I’d never be able to feel it. It’s just amazing. I’m very thankful to Megan. It’s amazing, I love it. I really do.”
Brinson was holding a teddy bear made from his mother’s uniform.
From Cape Coral with love
The black teddy bear, with its sergeant insignia (Clayton was promoted to lieutenant posthumously) and Orlando Police Department patch on its right shoulder, a commemorative badge with Clayton’s badge number on its chest and eyes and nose made of her shirt buttons, was a gift from Megan O’Grady.
The 14-year-old Cape Coral teenager started Blue Line Bears in January to help the children of slain law enforcement officers heal from the loss of their loved ones.
Megan, the daughter of a law enforcement officer, described the making of each bear as an emotional experience.
“It’s kind of different when you realize this shirt actually belonged to someone and it’s not just one your dad brought home for you,” she said. “It’s one for a family.”
The effort touched the heart of Orlando Police Chief John Mina.
“When I first heard Megan was making this teddy bear, I was overcome with joy, quite honestly,” he said. “Then when I found out it was going to be made out of Debra’s uniform, it was hard not to get emotional. It means the world to us.”
Megan also made three bears for the family of Orange County Deputy Norman Lewis, a Port Charlotte native who was killed in a vehicle accident during the manhunt for Clayton’s killer.
Megan delivered the bear to Brinson at Orlando Police Headquarters on Monday.
Mina and officers from Clayton’s squad were also there:
— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) February 20, 2017
“That hit me really hard,” she said afterwards. “It was good knowing what I did is going to help him through his mourning process.”
For Brinson, the bear was an emotional reminder of his mother.
“Whenever I get down, I just want to be able hug it and just think about her since this is the closest thing I have to her now,” he said. “I’m just so used to her being in uniform so I can just come to it and look at it and it’ll remind me of her.”
Brinson talked about the bear during his first media interview since his mother’s death: