Submitted by Maple Frye
On March 6, Bonham’s Bears sponsored a teddy bear give away at the Green Bay South Clubhouse in La Feria. First responders and organizations that help children in crisis were invited to light refreshments and free teddy bears. We gave 450 teddy bears to eight organizations. A ninth organization, Loaves and Fishes, was dealing with health issues and asked to pick up their teddy bears later.
During 2022, we also gave away 274 pet pillows to the Rio Grande Valley Humane Society under our Scraps for Scruffy Project. Bonham's Bears is an all-volunteer organization based at Green Bay South, but we have volunteers from Park Place, Rio Valley Estates, and Citrus Village.
Here are some of the organizations’ descriptions of how teddy bears and pet pillows help them.
La Feria Fire and Police. It’s good to give children something to hang on to when they’re scared. We want to make a bad day better. The police carry the teddy bears in our cars and also have them to give at Christmas time.
Family Crisis Center. We give all the teddy bears we receive. Children often go to shelters with nothing, so they get teddy bears for comfort. At our Repeat Performance store, located at 124 W. Jackson, Harlingen, you can drop off donations. Our clients get vouchers to get items free from the store. We operate shelters in Brownsville, McAllen, and Harlingen. When our shelters are full, we get help from Loaves and Fishes. Lately, we’ve had some severe cases and are working with children in shelters to “unlearn” bad behavior or deal with trauma. We have a Community Outreach Team that goes to schools and boys and girls clubs to teach them self-confidence and warn them about cyber dangers such as sexting. We try to be an advocate for the family, by getting restraining orders, getting medical care, and helping people transition to apartments by assisting with utility bills and a few months of rent.
Harlingen Police. The teddy bears help form a connection between toys and the police. We use teddy bears to comfort children at accident scenes and we drop off the teddy bears and toys at the Family Crisis Center. We also use teddy bears in presentations. One homicide officer spoke of having to do death notifications to families. The children see strangers with guns and hear the news that a loved one will never return. They are scared and traumatized. We use teddy bears to create a positive outlook.
Children’s Bereavement Center. The Children’s Bereavement Center is free. Besides the one in Harlingen, tonight is the grand opening of a 10,000 square foot center in McAllen. Trained counselors work with children long-term (up to 24 years old) and also support the whole family or caregiver. We put the teddy bears in our “Buddy Barn,” where children can pick a toy and take it home with them.
Ronald McDonald House. We have merged with the Ronald McDonald House in Corpus Christi and are now Ronald McDonald House of Southwest Texas. We closed the external house in Harlingen but kept the Family Room in the Valley Baptist Medical Center and operate a larger Family Room in the Edinburg children’s hospital. The family can go to the Family Room and get coffee, snacks, and a chance to re-boot, then quickly and easily visit with the patient. We give the teddy bears on holidays, birthdays, and part of a “cheer up” basket.
Cameron County Children’s Advocacy Center (CCCAC). The CCCAC carefully and professionally interviews abused children and shares the interviews with other professionals (police, social workers, legal workers, etc.) so the children don’t have to repeat their traumatic experience to multiple interested organizations. To show you how helpful the teddy bears are, one adult woman still treasures the teddy bear she got as a child. Monica’s House is named after Monica Castille, a five-year old, abused child who died from injuries. Maggie’s House is named after Maggie Whitman, a baby who did not survive her babysitter’s abuse. In Raymondville, a yet unnamed house will probably be named after an abused Raymondville boy.
Humane Society. We are excited to get pet pillows and the animals love not lying on hard floors. We are the Rio Grande Valley Humane Society and take in pets from Harlingen and soon from Mission, because these two cities have contracts that fund the “no-kill” Humane Society. Brownsville, Cameron County, and Weslaco operate shelters, but they are not “no kill” shelters. We offer pet adoptions, low-cost monthly vaccinations, and services provided by a part-time veterinarian.
Harlingen Fire. The Harlingen firefighters responded to an emergency at Green Bay South and did not have the chance to talk to us. We were fortunate that they were so near and so willing to help, demonstrating that they, indeed, are first responders. Finished handling the emergency, the firefighters returned and received their teddy bears.