Published September 18, 2012
Volume 20, Number 9

Good News Bears Spread Cheer and Comfort  

Good News Bears is a local nonprofit that spreads cheer and concern in an ingenious and endearing way: by giving stuffed animals to those “experiencing trauma, loss, loneliness, or illness.” 

“We strive to make sure that everyone who needs a ‘stuffed hug’ gets one. Last year, we gifted over 14,000 stuffed animals, and we are on target to surpass that number this year,” reports Jeanie Haigh, the organization’s “Chairbear.”

Founded in Livermore in 1996, the Good News Bears is essentially a group of volunteers always on the look-out for places that can benefit from their unique brand of comfort. Whether delivered to hospitalized children, dispensed at a battered women’s shelter, or tucked into care packages for active-duty military, the creatures invariably soothe and amuse their recipients. “There’s something about a stuffed animal that makes a connection with people,” observes Haigh. “I’ve seen critters given to people of all ages and genders during trauma or illness. It tells them that someone cares.” 

The stuffed animals come from a variety of sources. Some organizations the nonprofit supports require brand-new items, which the group buys from a long-standing supplier who offers very attractive pricing. Donations make up the lion’s share of inventory, though, and the public has been very generous in responding to collection campaigns.  As Haigh points out, “Many people have gently used stuffed animals sitting on a shelf and are happy to recycle them to a good cause.”

Occasionally, individuals will donate a large collection of dolls or bears. Many of the items have significant value, so the nonprofit will sell them and use the proceeds to fund new purchases. Storage is a perennial challenge, and Haigh is always looking for supporters who can volunteer extra space.

Most fund-raising comes from two major events, both, coincidentally, over the same fall weekend this year.

Octobear Affaire will take place on Saturday and Sunday, October 13 and 14, at Livermore’s Alden Lane Nursery, as part of the annual Fall Festival. The festival is a lively, fun event with family-centric activities like a scarecrow-decorating contest, pony rides, and apple tasting that always attract high traffic. The Good News Bears will have a booth offering collectible items, including a few vintage stuffed animals, for sale, and drawings for specially-themed gift baskets, like the “Best of Livermore,” full of local products. People can drop off donations or buy tickets for the drawings, and all proceeds go to fund bear purchases. 

The second event is the Doll and Bear show held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton on Saturday, October 13.  Good News Bears volunteers occupy two donated spaces and again hold drawings for donated items, many of them contributed by the merchants who sell at the show. “We make several hundred dollars there, and it costs us nothing but time,” Haigh comments.

For more information about how to assist the nonprofit, visit www.goodnewsbears.org or call Haigh at (510) 409-6754. 


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