Students at Nelson Elementary School used teddy bears donated by the Rough Riders when learning CPR at school last month.

A group of local elementary school students recently learned how to save a life with help from some fluffy friends. Nelson Elementary School physical education teacher and Valrico resident Leslie Wheeler thought outside of the box when preparing her CPR unit last month.

Wheeler teaches compression-only CPR to her students but noticed she was missing a vital part for the instruction.

“Because we only have one set of mannequins to use, it is not enough for an entire class, and sometimes the students might not feel comfortable practicing on the mannequins,” she explained. “So, I reached out to the Rough Riders to see if they would be willing to help.”

The Rough Riders are a U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.

“They are well known in the Tampa Bay community for distributing thousands of teddy bears to hospitals, centers for abused women and children, community health centers, special needs day care center and foster children,” she explained.   

Wheeler, who has been a member of the Krewe of Celts for the past 10 years, has a connection with the Rough Riders as they also participate in the Gasparilla Pirate Festival as a Krewe.

The Rough Riders donated 20 large teddy bears to the program.

“The use of teddy bears made the learning experience a little less scary,” she said. “When they learn about the circumstances of when you need to administer CPR, it is a very frightening moment to imagine. When the students were watching the video, I could see how engaged they were. They knew this was a serious lesson they were about to learn.”

This is the first year that Wheeler has taught CPR to first, second and third grade students, but she is looking forward to making it an annual event.

“Last year, I only taught it to my fourth and fifth graders,” she said. “This year, I introduced it to first through fifth grade. This is a permanent unit that will be taught yearly. The more the students practice, the easier it will be if they are ever in a situation where CPR will be needed.”

To learn more about the Rough Riders, visit

Previous articleIn-Depth With Davis Allows For Closer Look At Hillsborough Schools
Next articleCarnevale Comes To Lakeland At RP Funding Center
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.