Thinking that many voices united are stronger than scattered individual voices, these charter members founded the Virginia State Police Association over thirty years ago. In spite of resistance from their supervisors, these members forged ahead through rough times to build and support the fledgling association. They gathered at homes and offices to discuss and formulate their ideas and desires, and met with an attorney to discuss their rights and means of change within their Department. On December 9, 1974 these members gathered in Charlottesville and at 8: 49 p.m. they officially formed the Virginia State Police Association. On March 5, 1975 at 6: 40 p.m. the Association held its second meeting in Roanoke, and on September 30, 1975 at 6: 37 p.m., a third meeting was held in Richmond. Since its inception, the Virginia State Police Association has become an honored and professional organization and is now providing services and benefits far exceeding all previous expectations. "To be mutually helpful to one another" is still the primary purpose of the Virginia State Police Association - but today that is only part of the story. Helping members through scholarships, retirement grants and emergency relief funds is a prime focus - but the scope of giving has widened - to include the Department of State Police in general, and school and community programs across the Commonwealth. Dedicated on March 9, 1990, the largest gift to the Department from the Association was the statue located outside the entrance to the Academy. A uniformed trooper, life-size and bronze, will stand forever in recognition of the law enforcement officers the statue is modeled after. To troopers past the statue is a tribute, to troopers present, it is an inspiration, and to troopers yet to come, it is a legacy. The VSPA provides the Department with little bears that do a great deal of good in helping to dry young tears. Officers carry the Trooper Teddy bears in their patrol cars in case duty calls them to a scene where a child has been involved in an accident or has been traumatized in some way. The trooper gives the child a Trooper Teddy as a gift. The Association's goal of "being mutually helpful to one another" is realized through programs and benefits for its members. Since the scope of "helping" has widened to include schools and communities and youth-focused charities, the giving further fulfills the original motto of helping members of the Department. By projecting an image of professionalism, caring and support of programs and people in Virginia - the Virginia State Police Association provides members of the Department with additional reason to be proud of their positions. Today more than 2, 000 members of the Virginia State Police Association want to spread the word that Virginia State Troopers care about enforcing the law, but they also care about Virginians. When it comes to the Commonwealth, they are protecting and connecting.