The 12th annual Bear Fair wrapped up this past Friday, raising over five thousand stuffed animals for hospitals, shelters, social services agencies, after school programs and “anywhere kids are sick or in need” across the tri-state area since the beginning of November. Students, local residents and West Chester University alumni met to sort out the bears and prepare them to be sent out to different areas by the start of the holiday season.
Sean McElwee, a third-year student is involved for the first time this year. He said that the Bear Fair is an incredible way of helping children, which he got involved with after Maggie Tripp, director of the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs, approached him about it.
“How could I say no to making a difference?” McElwee asked.
Tripp also approached Julianne Spadine, a second-year student, this year to help with the program. To Spadine, it’s important to see how the Bear Fair is a collective of all the different volunteers on campus. She also noted how simple, yet effective the program is.
“You don’t realize how important one teddy bear can be,” Spadine said.
Michelle Filling is an alumni of WCU and graduated in 2002. This year marked her 10th Bear Fair as a volunteer. As an undergrad she was the service chair of Phi Sigma Pi, national service fraternity, and also worked in the Office of Service-Learning. The reason that Filling keeps coming back every year is because shesaid she has personally seen how much it can help.
Every year, the office receives cards and notes from children, as well as groups that receive bears thanking them for all the bears and hard work. Filling recalled a
specific story in which a mother was in the hospital and too sick to hug her son. Through the Bear Fair, the son received a bear that he could hug until his mother could hug him again.
“The fact that we receive cards shows how much it means to these children,” McElwee said.
“This all amazes me every year,” Filling said, acknowledging the room full of stuffed animals.
The committee had raised money both on and off campus. In addition to the number of student organizations and individual donations, large donations were made by both Stadium Grille and Kohl’s in Exton.
Stadium Grille on Turner Ln. in hosted a benefit night with all lunch and dinner proceeds going to the Fair. In addition, they also have an arcade machine and donate all of the money put into it in the month of November to the Fair.
The Kohl’s in Exton made a donation of almost 300 stuffed animals this year. Kohl’s has a program in which they sell stuffed animals to raise money for their own philanthropic organization. However, when they switch to a different animal, which is done every month or so, the leftovers are sent to WCU for the Bear Fair.
Residence Halls also raise money through socials, and the committee raffled off big teddy bears to raise money.
“[Donating] even one bear matters,” Tripp said. “It matters to that child that is going to be comforted by it. Personal donations add up, and this project is age appropriate for everyone.”
Jenn Rothstein is a second-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at QuadEIC@wcupa.edu.