The 19th Annual Bear Fair will take place from Sunday, Nov. 1 through Monday, Nov. 30 here at West Chester University.
For the past 18 years, WCU students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members have collected over 55,000 stuffed teddy bears to be distributed to children who are in hospitals, shelters and who come from low income families.
This year, the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs is trying something new with the fair. Now, for the first time, clubs and organizations can adopt an agency like Chester County Hospital to send the bears to. The “collectors” can choose where they want their bears to be sent.
By adding this feature this year, Jessica McCoppin, graduate assistant at the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs, said, “We are hoping that the groups collecting bears will have a better opportunity to actually learn about and engage with the agencies that serve the children.”
By opening a line of direct communication with these organizations, WCU students will have an opportunity to work directly with these charitable organizations.
This is McCoppin’s first year as the graduate assistant at the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs. She works alongside Jamie Williams, the assistant director of the Bear Fair.
Although this is McCoppin’s first year working on the event, for her, “the Bear Fair is another opportunity to see just how much our WCU student body and surrounding community truly care.”
“I feel so lucky to work in an office where my job is to help connect students with meaningful service,” said McCoppin.
The Dorothy Mann Center located in St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children is one of the agencies that particpates in the Bear Fair, and they feel lucky to be a part of the event. The center fights against pediatric and adolescent HIV and provides support to the children.
Last year was the first year they received bears from West Chester University, and they were delighted. They said, “For our families who often struggle while others celebrate, this gathering serves as a way for them to enjoy a few moments of lightness and celebration.
At the party, not only do families take a break from their everyday routines to share a healthy meal with loved ones, but also receive age appropriate gifts, like the teddy bears donated by WCUPA, to take home to give to their children at later family celebrations for the holiday season. Last year was the first time we received teddy bears from WCUPA. Our patients and families were very grateful.”
Other organizations that can be adopted by West Chester University clubs are Project One, Camp Dreamcatcher, The Salvation Army, and many others.
All new bear donations are welcomed and appreciated. The collection of the bears end on Monday, Nov. 30 so the agencies have time to hand them out to families in time for the holiday events they are holding. WCU students may be invited to some of these events in order be a part of the bear giving experience.
“The holidays are time where service is up front and center, but my position allows me to see that for WCU students service never seems to stop. I’m proud to be a member of this community for that reason,” said McCoppin.
If a club or organization would like to participate, please contact McCoppin at JM784759@wcupa.edu. There is a collection bin in the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Program located at Lawrence 241.
Keeley Gould is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at KG787739@wcupa.edu.