A Teddy Bear Christmas
A Mission of Love, Compassion and Comfort
The humble teddy bear is one of the most beloved and treasured toys of all time. I loved my childhood teddy bear even after he lost an eye and most of his fur wore off. When I went off to college, somewhere he got lost. I was devastated to discover that he would no longer be at my side for my next life chapter.
Teddy bears have become universal symbols of love, comfort and compassion. They have been in existence for more than a hundred years. The first stuffed toy bear made its debut in the United States in 1902. President “Teddy” Roosevelt had been on a hunting trip in Mississippi that year. His guides clubbed a bear and tied it to a tree for the President to shoot it. He refused to kill the poor defenseless animal. This incident generated national publicity and was depicted in a very popular political cartoon. Morris and Rose Mitchom, owners of a candy store in Brooklyn, N.Y., were inspired by the story and created a stuffed bear from a piece of plush velvet in honor of President Roosevelt. They displayed it with a sign that read “Teddy’s Bear” in their store window. Several people stopped to inquire if they could buy the bear. The Mitchoms decided to mail the original bear to the President as a gift for his children, along with a letter requesting permission to use his name for the bear. Roosevelt consented, and the teddy bear craze was born. It is reported that the teddy bear was adopted as a symbol of the Republican Party for the 1904 election. Teddy’s bear became so popular that the Mitchoms soon sold their store and created the Ideal Toy and Novelty Company in order to meet the growing demand. In 1963 the Mitchoms donated one of their first teddy bears to the Smithsonian Institution. It has been displayed in the American Presidency Gallery at the National Museum of American History, ever since.
Teddy bears became increasingly sophisticated as their popularity grew. Musical, mechanical, walking and acrobatic bears first appeared on the scene. Nowadays, they also talk and sing. They can be found in toy collections across the country. They represent love, and serve as a symbol of compassion to help assuage grief, anxiety and pain. Many are shopworn, but hold many precious memories for their owners.
For generations, teddy bears have been lovingly placed underneath Christmas trees, to delight and surprise young and old alike. It has been a yearly tradition for more than 20 years at St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church for the congregation to bring teddy bears to Church on the first Sunday in December. Toward the end of the service, the congregants bring their bears forward and place them on the altar. Already infused with love by the giver, a prayer is said over the bears before they are distributed to several local charitable organizations. Last year hundreds of bears were given to the Crisis Pregnancy Center, The Children’s Center, Deep Well, St Andrew’s soup kitchen and Christmas Grace program, as well as Bluffton Self Help and Hope Haven. Several were also delivered to first responders, local firemen and policemen to give to children at the scene of a fire or accident or other serious event.
Individuals and organizations are cordially invited to donate bears for this wonderful community service project. You do not need to be a member of the church, and you do not need to be present at the service. Furry friends will be welcomed at either of the church offices (Bluffton or Hilton Head) any time on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Give a little love–spread a little cheer! It will make a difference in someone’s life.
St. Andrew By-The-Sea Teddy Bear Project
Coordinator: Toney Mathews Phone: 843 785-4711
Hilton Head Campus
20 Pope Ave. Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Services: 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Sundays
39 Persimmon St. #203/204, Bluffton, SC 29910
Service: 10:30 a.m. Sundays