Project Teddy Bear brings in over 18,000 stuffed animals
Many young kids will find one small piece of joy this Christmas with a teddy bear given to them at care centers throughout Utah serving at-risk children. The teddy bears are donated to the care centers from branches of Bank of American Fork and Lewiston State Bank as part of Project Teddy Bear.
“Sometimes children come in with nothing but the clothes on their back,” said Alex Essig, Kids Place assistant and adoption respite supervisor for The Family Place. “These teddy bears are a great
way to offer them some comfort and safety when they come from an environment where that might not have happened.”
The 16th annual Project Teddy Bear brought in 18,831 stuffed animals during the 2015 holiday season. Richard Beard, president and CEO of People’s Utah Bancorp, holding company of People’s Intermountain Bank, which provides banking services through the branches of its Bank of American Fork and Lewiston State Bank divisions, presented the stuffed animals to several Utah treatment centers during a recent ceremony.
“When it comes to kids, there is nothing more important to us than to do what we can to help them find joy and happiness during this holiday time,” Beard said. “We are a community bank and all of the members of the various communities our branches serve are very important to us. In addition to our day-to-day business operations, we want to do all we can to serve.”
The staff at The Family Place in Logan provides counseling and education classes for parents and children as well as the Kids Place. Kids Place helps families that are in an emergency situation and need a safe place to bring their children when no other option is available. It also allows parents to bring their children to a safe place to socialize with other children and for other reasons.
“Depending on the child, they may be coming in not knowing why or what’s happened or may be upset,” Essig said. “The teddy bear we receive from Lewiston State Bank is a great way to calm the child down and gives them something to talk with when they might not feel like talking to an adult. It’s so amazing to see. Even though they just met the teddy bear, that teddy bear quickly becomes their best friend.”
The mountains of stuffed animals were donated by customers and community members and will benefit abused, at-risk and traumatized children. Children will receive the stuffed animals when they’re experiencing trauma or will use them in play therapy.
The Greenhouse Center for Growth and Learning in Pleasant Grove works with parents and children who need counseling and therapy. Many of the children they work with live in foster homes and are awaiting adoption. Some have issues with attachment or have to deal with other complex issues.
“When children come here they have usually experienced trauma such as abuse, neglect, broken families or other situations,” said Elsebeth Green, co-owner, clinical director and therapist at Greenhouse. “Bank of American Fork brings us these stuffed animals, which is a real blessing for us because we give each child a gift on their very first visit. They have often lost everything. They go to our closet and pick out a teddy bear, stuffed animal or a quilt made by people from the community.”
Bailey’s Moving & Storage, which donated boxes, moving supplies, trucks and labor to Project Teddy Bear, delivered the stuffed animals to the Utah crisis centers.
The community has donated more than 110,000 teddy bears and stuffed animals since Project Teddy Bear began in 1999.
Bank of American Fork employees and American Fork High School students boxed up 18,431 stuffed animals for delivery to the centers by Bailey’s Moving & Storage drivers. In Logan, Lewiston State Bank employees boxed up 400 new stuffed animals to go to Cache Valley centers.
Center employees received and sorted the stuffed animals, which will be given throughout the year to children and parents during therapy sessions and to take home.
Richard Beard, CEO of Bank of American Fork, presents nearly 20,000 stuffed animals to care centers for Utah’s at-risk children.