Throughout the month of November West Chester University and the surrounding community participated in the 13th annual Bear Fair.Bear Fair was started in 1997 by one West Chester University student with help from the office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs to collect teddy bears for children affected by HIV and AIDS.
The first year 200 bears were collected. Bear Fair takes place annually during the month of November in correlation with the upcoming holiday season and in anticipation of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1st.
Over the years Bear Fair has expanded from a campus wide event to an event that provides a unique connection between the campus and the community. Many studemt organizations participate by collecting bears and money, or directly holding social events to raise awareness of the Bear Fair. Some of the organizations that participate are SAC, BSU, Alpha Phi Omega and RHA.
In surrounding communities many scouting groups, schools and local businesses support the cause. Alumni are also strongly involved. Recent involvement has gotten so great that bears are being collected in three states across the region, (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware).
With the expansion of support Bear Fair has received, its mission and purpose has grown over the years. When it started, the mission of Bear Fair was to provide teddy bears to children affected by HIV and AIDS.
Over the years it has expanded to provide bears to children hospitalized with various illnesses as well as children in crisis situations such as poverty and homelessness. Since the start of bear fair more than 36,000 bears have been given away. The efforts of the community and campus participants do not go unnoticed. A card from a child recipient of a bear said “Thank you for the teddy bear. I named her Cuddles and I sleep with her every night. There is never a night that I sleep without her.” Last year 5,798 bears were collected. Recipients of bears are determined by the Bear Fair committee working directly with case managers who determine wish lists of children who will receive bears. “There’s no way to describe how a bear can comfort a child,” Maggie Tripp, the director of the Office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs said
Anyone can donate a bear by going to various locations on campus or in surrounding communities that provide drop boxes for bears. In order for a bear to be donated it must be new because hospitals will not accept used bears.
If an organization wishes to get involved, the can contact the office of service learning and volunteer programs to get assistance in fund raising techniques or help planning an event to support Bear Fair. Organizations can also take it upon themselves to collect bears or money to turn in to the bear fair committee. If an individual wants to donate a bear they can drop it off in the drop box located in Sykes Student Union.
Samantha Greenberg is a third-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at SG655862@wcupa.edu