Calgary, AB,

Girl Guides share their bears with victims of crime

The Girl Guides of Canada and Kid’s Help Phone are once again partnering with the Calgary Police Service to help comfort young victims of crime through the annual Share Your Bear event.

Girl Guides across the city donated 1,200 stuffed animals this year to give to the Service’s Victim Assistance Support Team. Every year, volunteers with the police give over 4,000 donated stuffed animals to children and youth who experience trauma as a result of crime or tragedy. The plush toys not only provide a small comfort to the child, but a tag attached to them also tells the young people how they can get support from Kid’s Help Phone.

“Kids process trauma differently than adults and our volunteers need a way to reach out to kids that helps open the lines of communication,” says Sgt. Andrea Koolick, with the CPS Victim Assistance Support Team. “The stuffed animals we get from Share Your Bear really help our officers and volunteers connect with children and youth who are processing hard things.”

The Share Your Bear program was started in 2000 after members of the Victim Assistance Support Team learned about a similar program where schools in Airdrie collected toys for kids who had been the victims of some kind of misfortune. Thanks to the partnership with the Girl Guides, Kids Help Phone and later MaxWell Realty, the program has grown steadily and now thousands of stuffed toys are collected each year.

“Share Your Bear is a great way for us to not only help people in our community, but also to teach our Sparks and Brownies about giving to others,” says Arzmund Teja, Area Commissioner for Girl Guides Canada. “The kids in our program know how much their own stuffed animals mean to them, so they can really relate to the difference it would make for young victims when they get a stuffed animal to help them through a painful situation.”

“Kids Help Phone is proud to be a member of the Share Your Bear program and the continuum of services that is provided through this program,” says Sylvia Whitworth, Director of Kid’s Help Phone, Alberta and NWT. “We know from our research that young people’s mental health and wellness significantly improves when they access our free, confidential services. That is why, this year, we are launching a new national 24/7 Texting Crisis Line, to provide young people with even more access to a critical lifeline of hope and support in the way they need it the most.”

The Share Your Bear program has been so successful, that police did not need to ask for donations from the public this year because there are still so many stuffed animals left over from previous years. In past years, Calgarians have been asked to drop new or gently-used bears off at MaxWell Realty offices for collection by the Girl Guides.

However, the Girls Guides were able to collect more than enough bears from their own friends and families to top up the Service’s supply this year.

“The public and MaxWell Realty have been fantastic supporters of this program over the years and we are so grateful to everyone who has donated in the past,” adds Sgt. Koolick. “This year, we just didn’t have the available storage space to hold the number of donations that usually come in, which is a really good problem to have.”

The Victim Assistance Support Team expects that public donations will be needed again at some point in the future, and will let Calgarians know when donations are being accepted.

The stuffed animals that are being donated by the Girl Guides will be presented to the Service on Friday, April 20, 2018, at the Girl Guides of Canada Headquarters.