Last month, young people at YouthCare’s Hope Center, Adolescent Shelter, and Casa programs celebrated Valentine’s Day with a new, cuddly teddy bear. The Build-A-Bear Foundation’s Hearts ‘n’ Hugs program supplied the bears to YouthCare and made Valentine’s Day beary special.
Knowing the need for comfort during difficult times, YouthCare’s Hope Center and Under 18 Services Program Coordinator, Calgary Wies, applied for the Hearts ‘n’ Hugs program, which supplies teddy bears to nonprofit organizations serving youth in need. She aptly named the project “Bear Hugs” and gave each bear a tag featuring a sweet bear stamp and a QR code linking to information about YouthCare and research on the importance of comfort objects.
“Comfort objects can mitigate the effects of trauma on the brain,” explains Calgary. “Firefighters and police frequently give bears to kids in emergency situations for this reason. The bears provide an avenue for youth in our programs to give and receive physical affection.”
Calgary shared that the very first bear was given to a youth who was in crisis. The youth, who was struggling with active mental health symptoms, was able to de-escalate and calm down after receiving the bear. The gift of a snuggly bear proved valuable for this youth, who later shared they were grateful to have something to comfort them during a tough week.
Now that the bears have been distributed, plans are in the works for youth to make clothes and accessories to personalize their bears. Having a new possession, something that is their own, is really important for youth facing homelessness. “It shows youth they are deserving,” says Calgary.
Because the Hearts ‘n’ Hugs program has a minimum order of 200 hundred bears, more than YouthCare needed, Calgary also distributed bears to other youth service providers. She was grateful for the opportunity to spread the love to partner organizations, including Atlantic Street Center where she was once a client. “It felt good to give back to those who had helped me,” she said. Calgary also delivered bears to Seattle Children’s Hospital on Valentine’s Day. This was especially meaningful because she had been a patient in a children’s hospital for open heart surgery exactly 21 years prior.
As symbols of comfort and care, these bears were a perfect way to love on our young people on February 14th. Thank you, Calgary and Build-a-Bear, for making this possible!