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Teddy Bear Project

Serendipity Under Less-than-Ideal Circumstances

by Dr. Mary Ann Markey

Thinking with your heart rather than your head can present some very interesting outcomes during less-than-ideal circumstances such as navigating through a pandemic. Thankfully, there are few precedents that have been set as a result of previous pandemics, and there are few rules under which to function which tend to change almost daily according to public policy. Perhaps launching a new non-profit charitable organization during this time of escalating stress and uncertainty was not the smartest move, but as the frequency and number of cases relating to intra-family homicide, violence, domestic violence and aggression continue to rise, it seemed like the perfect time to post a social media message regarding initiating the Teddy Bear Project in southwest Florida. And so it began with one post on the NextDoor website to ask if anyone would be interested in participating in donating teddy bears and other plush toys to abused, neglected, abandoned and homeless children. Within 24 hours, there were dozens of positive responses with women and men asking how they could help the Teddy Bear Project. Shortly thereafter, there were people in South Dakota and North Carolina who volunteered to assist us by shipping boxes of teddy bears and other plush animals as well as opening their homes to become drop off sites to making donating to our efforts more convenient. The generosity and dedication of the volunteers and stakeholders for our small 501c3 has been unprecedented which demonstrates the innate goodness and willingness of people to help one of our most vulnerable populations of children during this time of great uncertainty even when many of these individuals themselves are struggling with some type of loss, such as a family member, home, job, business, and are trying to work their way through the grieving process. One major take-a-way from this experience has been the resiliency of the human spirit combined with the determination to help others with even the [seemingly] simple gesture of giving a teddy bear to a child in need.