Teddy Bear Drives: a how-to
Hosting a Teddy Bear Drive can be a wonderful way to remember a loved one, especially a child, who has died. This photo above is the result of our last bear drive. And I thought some of you might like to know how to go about organizing your own Teddy Bear Drive in memory of someone you love.
First, you'll want to call your local firestation and make sure they will take donations of teddy bears. In our area, the firemen take bears with them when called out so that when they meet a child who is scared or whose home has just burned down, then they can give the child a bear to hug and have and love. Our local FireStation 18 was very excited to hear that we were going to find bears for them. They never have enough is what they told us.
Then, go around to local merchants who are in the area of the firestation and ask if they might consider being a "drop-off" point for the drive. You'll need to provide them with a box and flyers to advertise the drive. The merchants who helped us were very kind and excited about the drive. They put our "drop-off" boxes right in the front or windows of their stores and hung our signs very prominently. Some even made signs of their own because they were proud to be sponsoring this drive.
If a merchant won't be a "drop-off" point, then ask if they might just hang a flyer on their door or at their cash register to tell people about the drive and where to drop bears for donation. All of the merchants in our area were glad to at least do this for us.
Make flyers and hang them everywhere you can. Contact your local paper and ask if they might run a free listing for your in their Events section. Check out the neighborhood Chamber of Commerce and ask if they might add a listing to their newsletter. Contact local community centers to see if they publish calendars or newsletters and ask to be included there, too.
It's best to provide an end date for your drive, too. We usually do drives with the plan to take the bears to the firemen on March 11th which is our son's birth/death date. If you are going to mark a special day like this, be sure to end your drive a week or so prior so that you have time to pick up all donation and boxes from "drop-off" points. Providing an end date helps merchants know when to take flyers down or might encourage them to put a "drop-off" box out for you if they know it won't be forever.
Other things you might consider: Maybe you could ask the local printer to donate the copies of the flyers for the drive. Maybe you could ask the local toy store to do a display of bears in their window along with your flyer and information. Use the Internet and provide a mailing address for people from all over to participate in your teddy bear drive. I have been know to send bears to Texas and the Midwest from here in Seattle for bear drives happening there. We got a huge box of bears from Pennsylvania for our drive.
Also, the firemen are often very excited about helping you out if they can. Our firestation offered to bring out the firetrucks one Saturday afternoon to publicize the event. Get them to come out on a main street or parking lot of a local grocery store or school yard. Let your local news stations know about it and maybe they'll come around to film for their evening news "kicker story" and you'll get even more publicity that way.
When you have all the bears ready to go, consider adding Kindness Cards to the bears to say who you are remembering. We added cards for our bears in memory of our son, but we also added cards for others who had donated in memory of their loved ones. Kindness Cards can be a wonderful way to let everyone know that your heart and soul was in this drive!
And when all is said and done, be sure to call the station to make sure when it's a good time to bring the bears to them. Our Station 18 was very kind and grateful for the bears we delivered. They even invited us to dinner to say thank you. Sadly we had scheduling conflicts and couldn't go last time, but next year maybe??? I hear Fireman's Goulash is YUMMY!
Most of all, have fun with this. It can be that "layering of memories" where you are acknowledging the pain and loss, but also layering it with the good vibes of a bear drive. It's hard to ignore how cute and cuddly the donated bears are. Take photos of the bears. Let all the merchants and papers and news organizations know how it all turned out and be sure to tell them that you'll be doing it again next year, too!