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June 22, 2004 > One Bear Project

One Bear Project

The One Bear Project

Teddy Bears are powerful. Without moving a fuzzy paw, they are able to bring smiles to troubled faces and comfort to those in turmoil. Although many people have known the power of these cuddly creatures, Karen Kadaja discovered Teddy Bear power could do more than simply reside in her heart. Last year, a discussion with a friend expanded into an idea for a Sunday brunch with friends. She decided that "admission" would be a Teddy Bear and the donated bears would be taken to the Fremont Police Department for distribution and "that would pretty much be it!" The brunch was a success and "The One Bear Project" became a reality. Karen approached a friend, Penni Bowles, a branch manager at a local bank, to contribute a bear and Penni responded by donating the use of her business space for a public event. Three and a half weeks later, the first Bear Party was held to benefit the Tri-City Homeless Coalition - over 300 bears were collected!

Success of the event spurred more efforts to find "wayward Teddy Bears" and following the party, from August through December, an additional 535 more fuzzy friends were on their way to deserving children. Sister John Marie's Pantry and Children's Hospital in San Francisco (at the request of a local physician whose family had received critical services at the hospital) were beneficiaries of The One Bear Project.

Conceived as a "grass roots" effort, The One Bear Project does not compensate anyone working on its behalf. It is not designed as the genesis of a large nonprofit organization, but jealously guards its grass roots focus. Karen is grateful to a core group that has been instrumental in providing critical support of The One Bear Project. This group, including: Patricia Bagley, May Kessler, Pam Mah, Dr. Marvin Mah, Nesly Moquette, Frank Morrison and Gloria Ritchie works without compensation of any kind for their efforts. Karen also is quick to mention the first donations to The One Bear Project by Theresa Jacobs and Sharon Schommer of the former Bay Street Dolls and Bears.

The One Bear Project does not accept financial contributions or other forms of support other than new Teddy Bears and an occasional lion, tiger or other stuffed animal. New bears are collected for a named charity and receipts are issued by that organization. Karen says that the organization is designed as a conduit for Teddy Bear contributions to groups that can effectively distribute them to good homes. The purpose and goal of The One Bear Project is simple and direct - to find homes for wayward bears seeking a deserving child, "healing hearts one bear at a time."

This year, a "Bear Party" is scheduled for Saturday, July 17th at Cloverleaf Family Bowl. League of Volunteers (LOV) will be the recipient organization of the donated bears and their stuffed friends. Party activities are open to all who bring a Teddy Bear donation (at least one per person). A free game of bowling, discounts on dry cleaning, fingerprinting for kids, lessons in jewelry making and cooking are just a few of the activities planned. Two "Teddy Bear style" silent auctions will be held - one for children only - where no money is allowed, just the donation of bears and other stuffed animals.

"We focus on the Tri-City community," says Karen. "The One Bear Project will work with any service organization or group that helps children in need." She adds that some organizations are not well recognized by the press or the general public, but are doing good things for the local community and can use help from The One Bear Project.

My tag line is, "I beg for bears," says Karen and adds that she is far from shy about asking others to help. The call for Teddy Bears has been answered from far and wide. Private donations have come from many parts of the country including Missouri, Florida and throughout California. "If a friend has a friend or they know someone that can lead to a donation of a bear, I am on that call," says Karen. Donations are required to be new bears since the number of donations has risen dramatically and the group has limited time for quality control.

Although the idea is to help the community "one bear at a time," when asked if she will accept more, Karen says, "Of course! I will take as many as I can." The slogan indicates the group's primary goal - to get many small donations throughout the year. She adds, "We are just as thrilled receiving one bear as two or three!"

"The Bear Party" is an added plus," says Karen. When informed of the purpose of The One Bear Project, "people say, 'we want to contribute - what can we do.' We ask if they would like to host the event. This year, Cloverleaf Family Bowl was happy to act as host by providing their space and services while others including Ohlone Community College Theatre Department will build scenery, Minerva's teaching children's' cooking classes, Kiowa Rose from Niles donating beads and her services and the Hayward storytellers performances. "We ask these people to donate what they can on their terms."

Other groups such as the Newark Rotary have been especially helpful to The One Bear Project. While cash donations are not allowed by The One Bear Project, the club offered the equivalent of $250 of Teddy Bear contributions. "I was overjoyed and humbly said 'Thank You.' People are responding and we are making sure that we fulfill our commitment to whatever we can do."

"More and more people are hearing about us," says Karen "but we are still in the process of reaching out to the community. Our goal is to have people come to us. We want the word to get out so we can help our community - healing hearts, one bear at a time."

The One Bear Project

Bear Party 2004
Saturday, July 17
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Cloverleaf Family Bowl
40645 Fremont Blvd., Fremont

Admission by:
Teddy Bears and other stuffed Animals only
No Cash Allowed.

Benefit for League of Volunteers

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