Bears and More is partnering with Historic Downtown Glendale Saturday, Sept. 11, for the 17th annual Teddy Bear Day, which provides funds or goods for multiple charities as well as a fun day for the entire family.
“There really is a National Teddy Bear Day. So, we started this as a way to have fun with the community in September,” said Valerie Burner, owner of Bears and More and event organizer. “We did the first Teddy Bear Day, and then at the second one, we learned about the trauma teddy program. Once we had that element, we just grew from there and the event has continued.”
The trauma teddy program provides teddy bears for first responders to give to children who have been in or witnessed a traumatic event. Since getting involved, Bears and More has donated more than 10,000 bears to the program. The majority of those come from donations on Teddy Bear Day, and Burner said each year they usually receive an average of 300 to 400 bears.
Ashley Losch, public information officer for the Glendale Fire Department, said all of the donated bears are used. She added that she has personally given out some and has seen how the simple gift has an enormous impact.
“Children that have experienced some form of trauma, either personally or witnessed it, tend to do better when we are able to kind of get to their level and soften whatever it is that’s happening,” Losch said.
“Oftentimes, by giving them a teddy, that bonds us, because we’re able to give them something. They see us as somebody safe that they get something from. They can hold on to it (the teddy) when they’re either suffering or struggling with whatever it is that they had just witnessed. It just makes it easier to get them calm and either treat them, talk to them or console them. They can sort of have it as an outlet for whatever emotions that they’re feeling.”
The trauma teddy program isn’t the only charity the day helps, though. Burner said her nieces and nephews have a lemonade stand and bake sale fundraiser every year to support Arizona Search Dogs, a nonprofit that trains professional search and rescue dogs for emergency situations around the country. And, while they aren’t a charity, the Glendale fire and police departments will engage with the community, educating kids and having positive interactions. A firetruck police car is brought out for kids to see and explore, which Burner said makes for a great photo shoot.
“It’s a great way for people to connect with the police department in the community and have a positive interaction because, truth be told, the only time we talk to firefighters or policemen is when we’re hurt or not having a good day. So it’s very positive and a good thing,” Burner said.
Besides helping these organizations, Teddy Bear Day is a time for families and the community to come together and have a fun, bear-themed day. Other events include face painting, balloons, crafts, treats from local restaurants, and photo opportunities. Jennifer Cerreta, owner of Cerreta Chocolate Factory, said a discounted price is offered on a make-and-take chocolate teddy bear.
“We’ve been doing it all the years that the city has been running Teddy Bear Day,” Cerreta said. “The chocolate teddy bear is about the size of the adult hand, and the kids just have a ball decorating it with gummies, little candies, marshmallows, additional chocolate or white chocolate cream. They get to make it and decorate any way they want and, of course, take it home.”
In addition, the 1895 Spicery will have a teddy bear cake for dessert. Other businesses are picking up on the bear theme as well, with teddy bear-shaped cups and a make-and-take gummy bear charm bracelet. To ensure everyone can get in on the fun, there will be a free shuttle running to various participating locations throughout Glendale. Anyone who rides the shuttle will also receive a sticker and a free taffy pull kit from Cerreta Chocolate Factory.
“It’s just a great day where we’re able to participate with the city, the ladies, all in the area, do a great job in pulling together and supporting the cause behind it,” Cerreta said. “They also have search dogs and so forth just to make it fun for everybody, not just us vendors. It’s fun for the people that just come and participate and have a good time.”
Losch echoed her statement and said while it’s nice to receive the donations, it’s also just a fun event for the entire community.
“Teddy Bear Day is just such a cool day in the community. Obviously, we love that it benefits our trauma teddy program, but the way that Bears and More have made this such a big day is just phenomenal,” Losch said. “They bring in the search dogs, we have a firetruck, and kids get lemonade and treats. It’s a really nice way to bring the community together, too. So, we look forward to it every year.”
The event is from 10 a.m.to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, in Downtown Glendale. Start at the Arizona Information Center Booth at Memory Lane Trinkets and Treasures for an event map and a photo with Al the Bear. The event is free to attend, while some activities, such as decorating the chocolate teddy bear, have a nominal fee.
“Everybody should come, get a teddy bear and have a fun day,” Burner said.