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Gift Teddies Help Sick Children Bear Up

October 23, 1986|JIM WALTERS | Walters is a Times copy editor. and

A hospital emergency room can be a scary place for a 6-year-old, hundreds of miles from home and facing stitches. But having a bandaged teddy go along through the ordeal can make the situation much more--well, bearable.

"I couldn't believe the calming effect that that bear had on him," Steven Wolf said about his son, Adam. "He hugged and played with that bear for an hour while the hospital personnel worked on him. It really helped take his mind off the matter at hand."

And that, the Good Bears of the World International say, is one small example of what Paw Power is all about.

Members in 25 Countries

Founded on the principle of inspiring compassion and easing loneliness through teddies, the good-will organization claims more than 10,000 members in 25 countries. The Golden Bear State is home to five chapters--including the Greater Los Angeles Den and Orange County's California Golden Bear Den 1--that help to make sure ill or abused youngsters and oldsters have teddies to hug.

Chairbear Cindi Beare Reilly of Mission Viejo and the Golden Bear den are supplying teddies to Orangewood, the Orange County emergency shelter for children.

"We often have kids who are very upset when they come through the front door," said Sonja Detert, community program specialist at Orangewood. "We try to make them feel as comfortable as possible by giving them a doll or something to hold onto while we conduct our intake procedure.

"We go through hundreds of toys a month," Detert said. "With the 2,000 children we care for throughout the year, we just never seem to have enough bears."

The den, with about 20 members, is in danger of going into hibernation, Reilly said. "To many of our members in the Los Angeles area, it was hard to get to meetings down here in Orange County once a month. It would be nice to get more Orange County people involved."

"I was amazed at the calming effect the bear had on my son," said Wolf, 35, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angles den. While waiting for a ferry on the family's August vacation to Vancouver, the Woodland Hills boy had slipped off the hood of a car he was sitting on. "Adam gouged himself on the license-plate bracket before he hit the ground," Wolf said. "It put a three-inch gash in his thigh--cut him clean through to the muscle."

After some first aid and the trip to the hospital, Wolf continued his own brand of bear care, bandaging Adam's stuffed toy at home. The bandages and the stitches were removed on the same day; both patients have an excellent prognosis.

Teddies Get Around

While some teddies have joined hospital staffs, others are finding positions at nursing homes, children's shelters, schools and with law enforcement agencies.

Kathleen Ferguson, chairbear and one of the founders of the Los Angeles den, is helping supply the Los Angeles Police Department's Child Protection Section with teddy bears. "My husband, Larry, who's a scriptwriter, had become friends with several of the guys on the force while he was doing research for his cop pictures," she said. "I've collected bears for quite some time. So, helping the police deal with child abuse through bears just seemed like the perfect solution (for the den)."

Crimes involving children are difficult to investigate, said Lt. M. D. (Doc) Warkentin of the Los Angeles Police Department, because so many times the adults who children look up to are the ones who are hurting them. Stuffed animals help detectives develop a rapport with children during investigations, he said.

"Many of these kids--abused or neglected--are really hurting when we see them," Warkentin said. "They feel like no one loves them. Teddy bears don't solve crimes, but they show these kids that we care."

Big things are bruin this month as the organization celebrates "Good Bear Day" on Monday, the birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt, who is credited with lending his name to the toy.

The Los Angeles den has scheduled its inaugural fund-raiser for Saturday at Lou Finley's Two Bears Gallery, 13263 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. The art gallery will donate a portion of proceeds to the den.

Finley's role in the Good Bears came about quite by accident--Ferguson's, to be precise.

"I has in the process of redecorating my husband's office," Ferguson said, "and while we were transporting things, this crystal bear that he liked was put on top of the car. He pulled out of the driveway and there went the bear."

A New Friendship

Her search for an indestructible wooden replacement led her to Finley's gallery and a new friendship.

"I was helping deliver meals to the homebound one day a week, on Fridays, and was looking for a different day off so I wouldn't have to close the gallery," Finley said. "I overheard Kathleen talking about the Good Bears and decided it was a charity that I could not only work with, but also one that would fit into my schedule."

And that, Ferguson said, is why the Good Bears is a honey of charity.

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