November 7, 2014
The Bear Fair, West Chester University's November tradition of collecting new teddy bears for children who are in hospitals and shelters during the holiday season, is now in its 18th year. In those years, more than 55,000 children in the Philadelphia region have received a plush teddy bear - a hug that never stops - thanks to the many people who have purchased new bears for this toy drive.
Through Sunday, Nov. 30, the Bear Fair will accept new bears at on-campus and off-campus donation sites. The bears are destined for such regional organizations as Camp Dreamcatcher (for children in families affected by HIV/AIDS), AIDS Care Group, Family Services of Chester County and of Delaware County, and Mercy Neighborhood Ministries.
Many alumni and community groups are involved. "Every year, my students and colleagues participate in the Bear Fair, and I am always amazed at the response," says Jen Brookover '98, a counselor at Upper Darby High School. "In just a few days, my office and classroom are filled with bags of teddy bears! This is such a wonderful and worthwhile cause."
Michelle Filling-Brown '02, an English professor at Cabrini College, continues to serve on the Bear Fair committee as an alumna because, "Not only does the Bear Fair bring smiles to children's faces, but it brings smiles to those who donate bears. I am proud to be a part of this annual bear drive that has grown so tremendously."
Teachers can contact the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs' Jamie Williams for materials and activities to make the Bear Fair a service-learning project for their classes.
This year, in order to get the bears into children's hands quickly during the holiday season, bears will be counted and bagged as they come in so that agencies will have them earlier. This also saves space in the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs new offices in Lawrence 241.
Started in 1997 by a WCU student, this project has grown over the years and is now coordinated by a student committee through the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs. Groups who arrange their own collections during the month of November can bring the teddy bears to Lawrence 241 or to one of the area drop-off locations. Monetary donations and checks are also accepted; make payable to "SSI 380 Bear Fair."