CINCINNATI (AP) — People across the country want to help a 7-year-old Ohio boy who told a police officer he was trying to sell a stuffed animal to buy food, because he hadn’t eaten in several days.
Individuals and businesses from around the country have been asking how they can help, a spokesman for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Franklin said Monday.
“I’ve had calls from Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina and Texas and many other states,” St. Vincent de Paul spokesman Rocky Adams said, adding that they already have received several hundred dollars to help the boy and his brothers.
Police in Franklin, between Cincinnati and Dayton, say Officer Steve Dunham found the boy in front of a drug store this month with the large stuffed animal and wearing no shoes.
“It broke my heart,” Dunham told WLWT-TV .
Dunham, who didn’t immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking additional comment, said he took the boy to a Subway restaurant to get something to eat. “(We) said a little prayer and ate dinner together,” Dunham told the TV station.
Police say other officers went to the boy’s home, where they found four older boys living amid garbage and cat urine.
Child welfare officials have placed the children with other relatives. Their parents pleaded not guilty to child endangerment charges and are scheduled for a pretrial hearing next month.
The police report said that the other children woke up the parents when officers arrived, and the parents said they didn’t realize the 7-year-old wasn’t home.
The parents created “a substantial risk of health and safety,” by neglecting cleanliness and having large amounts of bugs and spoiled food throughout the residence, among other things, the report stated.
Police Chief Russ Whitman said Monday that the actions of his officers weren’t unique.
“Situations like this happen all across the nation every day where law enforcement goes above and beyond to help people in need,” Whitman said. “It’s just part of what we do.”
This story has been corrected to show that a police report indicates the boy was trying to sell a stuffed animal, not a teddy bear.