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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 17th year. In those years, more than 53,000 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.
Between Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday, 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. Among the hospitals that will receive bears this year are Chester County, Crozer Chester, CHoP, St. Christopher's, Lancaster General and Christiana.
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 '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."
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. Monetary donations and checks are accepted (make payable to "SSI 380 Bear Fair"). Groups that would like to participate can email OSLVP Director Jodi Roth (firstname.lastname@example.org).