teddies to the rescue

        Radar left his teddy bear, and his innocence, in Korea

So, besides being cute and cuddly, and having countless stories written about them, what else do teddy bears do?

They work hard.

They have to. 

Because all is not fun and games. Some bears perform above and beyond the call of duty. They’re not only loyal, patient, and steadfast — they are also very brave. They always seem to know just what people need.

Long before Radar appeared with his teddy on M*A*S*H, bears accompanied soldiers to war. They made parachute descents, crossed enemy lines, were even carried by refugees fleeing the Nazis. Whenever there was fear, risk, or uncertainty, people have taken their bears with them.         

But one does not have to be on the front lines to experience trauma, or need comfort, solace and love. What about the innocent victims of natural disasters, automobile accidents, domestic abuse, or more recently, terrorist attacks? What about patients with terminal illnesses, or seniors who may be lonely and forgotten? Bears have been only too willing to serve in this capacity, too, thanks to Good Bears of the World (GBW), an international non-profit organization founded in 1969 by the late journalist and radio pioneer, James Ownby.

                   Officer Rudat of the Fairfax County Police Dept. 
                   with the official GBW bear, and a copy of Bear Tracks,
                   the GBW quarterly journal.

Jim’s dream of helping anyone of any age needing a bear’s comfort began with a story he read called Bear With Me, about a man who dedicated himself to giving bears to hospitalized children. Jim began to spread the good word about bears from his first headquarters, radio station KNDI in Honolulu, Hawai’i. He visited legislatures, schools, churches and hospitals, made television appearances, and continued to broadcast to about 400 radio stations from various locations around the world. 

Wherever he went, he was able to gain support for those in need. People began to form chapters called “dens,” made or purchased bears, and then presented them in person. Today, there are dens all over the world, and hundreds of thousands of bears have been donated to hospitals, orphanages, hospices, police departments, social services, and fire and rescue. GBW was there for victims of the Oklahoma City Bombings, 911, and the crash of TWA Flight 800, as well as recent hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. And it is likely that many of the police cars in your area carry bears to comfort young accident victims, thanks to GBW.

                           Shannon receives a bear from CJ Ross


In addition to Good Bears of the World, I’d also like to mention Sir Koff-a-Lot, because he “comes to the rescue” by helping patients recover from open heart surgery. He was specially created by a husband and wife surgical team from Pennsylvania who also happen to be bear collectors. 

After surgery, patients are encouraged to cough and do deep breathing exercises every hour or two, to keep their lungs clear and free of infection. Usually a pillow or rolled up blanket held against the chest is used to ease the pain. 

                Sir Koff-a-Lot can be ordered through Muffin Enterprises

Drs. Lawrence and Carolyn Shaffer, who fully understood teddy’s healing powers, created a firm bear with a flat, seamless back that could be held against the incision when the patient breathes or coughs. Sir Koff-a-Lot hastens healing by adding that much needed emotional component. He makes patients feel more secure; some become so attached to him that they take him home when they leave the hospital. We gave my uncle a Sir Koff-a-Lot bear when he had heart surgery, and he fully attested to its effectiveness!

Though the teddy bear was first created as a toy more than 100 years ago, he has proven time and again that he’s so much more than fur and stuffing. It is likely that he will continue to find new jobs to perform, new ways to serve. He has already heard millions of secrets, been pulled apart, left behind, dragged in the mud, and suffered every indignity known to man — yet he remains proud and willing to come to the rescue whenever and wherever he is needed. The next time you see a teddy, better show him due respect. Someday, he just might rescue you.

 To find out more about GBW, including how to become a member, find the den nearest you, or to make a donation, click here.

Or, you can participate in the new Adopt-a-Bear Program — adopt (purchase) one of the five currently featured bears, and the money will go to providing bears for those in need.

Here is my favorite bear among those currently seeking a new home. She can be yours for only $25 plus shipping!

  “Cookies and Cream” by Annette Funicello Collectible Bear Co.

       9 inches, black and white mohair, fully jointed, original tag 
       and pin in ear.

        How can you resist?


*Thanks to Elizabeth Taylor, co-owner of Agape Bears, official sponsor of the Giving Paws Den in Arlington, Virginia, for the GBW photos.