Project Teddy Bear brings in over 18,000 stuffed an­i­mals

Serve Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Cory Maloy

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.

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