Teddy bear hunting brings much-needed joy and comfort to Colorado neighborhoods

Janice Day holds her teddy bear in the window of her home on Grand Overlook Street in Colorado Springs this week. Day, who is a retired elementary school teacher, put her bear in the window to entertain the neighborhood children after learning about the movement on a morning news telecast. Photo Credit: Christian Murdock, The Gazette

Desperate times call for teddy bears.

So, here they are. Not tucked next to bedroom pillows or hidden in closets. But perched in plain sight to whoever walks by, waiting to be seen and waiting to brighten someone’s day.

Teddy bears, pictures of teddy bears and stuffed animals of all species are being placed in front windows, on front porches and on roofs around the world, offering comfort during days when hugs are restricted to only those living under one roof.

The idea is for kids to go “hunting” for bears while walking around their neighborhoods and while families avoid venturing far from their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The teddy bears hunts are happening in Colorado Springs, too, like in Pam Flanery’s neighborhood.

Flanery’s kids are grown, so she didn’t have any stuffed animals around. But she taped two paper dolls — dressed to look like girl and boy bears — to the window of her Briargate home to join the fun.

A handful of her neighbors also put teddy bears out front. Parents and kids soon found the fuzzy faces.

And Flanery saw plenty of excited faces.

“I love the simple pleasures Americans are enjoying right now,” she wrote on Facebook about the scavenger hunt of sorts. “I hope it continues after life goes back to ‘normal.’”

The movement was inspired by the 1989 children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

When she was a pre-kindergarten teacher, Flanery would read the book to her class.

“It brought up a lot of memories,” she said. “It’s such a cute book.”

The story follows children insisting they’re “not scared” and pushing through obstacles — tall grass, mud, a river and snowstorm — while on a hunt for bears.

Today, there’s new stuff to be scared of. And there are new ways to make people smile, no matter the obstacles that come with self-isolation.

Flanery says “the surprise factor” of teddy bear hunting creates happy faces.

“You’re on a hunt to look for something and you don’t know what you’re going to see,” she said. “And then it’s like, ‘Look what we found.’”

Shelly Roehrs, a local real estate agent, helped put together an interactive map of where to go bear hunting. The list has reached more than 500 addresses.

“Selfishly, I think it gives us something to do,” she said of the game, made for social distancing. “It makes it so when kids go on a walk, it’s not just another boring walk.”

On social media, Roehrs suggested participants put out stuffed bunnies and rabbits ahead of the Easter holiday.

“It’s something small you can do to bring a smile to a kid’s face,” she said.

Janice Day has seen that with her two grandsons, ages 4 and 7.

With the boys out of school, Day, a retired elementary school teacher, has started home schooling them. It feels like a return to her “glory days.”

She’s been finding activities to keep them busy, like making lava lamps. They went teddy bear hunting, too. Grandma put penguins in her window.

“This was something for them to look forward to, outside their regular everyday routine,” she said. “I’m always looking for something to spark their interest. They need that right now.”

Kids aren’t the only ones.

For Flanery, a self-described extrovert, it’s been tough working remotely.

“I’m a person of faith,” she said. “I lean on the Lord a lot.”

She says her close group of neighborhood friends have stayed in touch through texting.

That’s not the same as face-to-face conversations.

“I hate the virus, I hate isolation, I hate that people are losing their jobs,” she said. “But the thing I love is it’s making people value relationships more than they ever have before.”

Flanery’s home office in her dining room faces the front window, so she often sees people outside to grab mail or go on walks.

Lately, she’s seen neighbors spotting teddy bears. When that happens, they shoot Flanery a big smile.

“Who doesn’t love teddy bears?” Flanery said. “They bring such joy.”

These days, that’s not a bad thing to spread.


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