Teddy bears rained down on the ice like confetti Saturday during the Spokane Chiefs’ annual teddy bear toss. The team scored their first goal just after the beginning of the second period, prompting the avalanche.
The flurry of falling bears lasted for several minutes, with some people working hard to heave more than a few nearly life-sized bears over the glass and onto the ice.
Five pickup trucks and an army of volunteers from Mt. Spokane, North Central and East Valley high schools crossed the ice to pick up the piles. The trucks were stuffed full, even the cabs, and more were piled on the roofs. Volunteers still had large piles left over to stuff into plastic bags.
The fans set a new record, throwing 7,655 bears and other assorted stuffed animals onto the ice. The previous record, of 6,829, was set last year.
Before the game began, Scott Robinson stood rinkside with three teddy bears at his feet. He said he’s a longtime Chiefs fan, ever since his grandfather began taking him and his brother to games when they were young. “It’s been a tradition in our family,” he said.
Robinson thinks he’s been to 11 teddy bear toss nights. His entire family contributes, going through their homes to gather bears for the toss.
“If we don’t need them, we bring them to the teddy bear toss,” he said. “It’s for all the children that can’t have Christmas. I appreciate it because we’re giving back to them.”
Up in the stands, Ty Reuter was one of thousands of fans who had brought a bear, but he got his at the last minute. He won his tickets to the game and didn’t know about the toss in advance.
“We got one as we came in,” he said.
The Spokane Chiefs have been holding the teddy bear toss since 2000, and it’s one of their most popular nights, said Director of Media Relations Brian Cobb. “If a family goes to one game a year, it’s the teddy bear toss,” he said. “It’s kind of its own feel. People who aren’t hockey fans will come out because it’s a holiday tradition.”
Not everyone in the crowd participates, but many do. “Some people bring in one bear,” Cobb said. “Some people bring in a garbage sack full.”
All those bears collected Saturday will be taken to the Christmas Bureau this week before the doors open Wednesday. The stuffed animals of all sizes, shapes and types will soon find a new home for the holidays.
New donations have slowed, adding only $4,175 to bring the year-to-date total to $108,384.04. The goal is to raise $525,000 to pay for food vouchers, toys and books for needy families for Christmas.
The community has rallied every year for the last 13 years to meet the annual fundraising goal, but this year the fund got off to a slower than usual start. By this date last year the fund had raised $155,995.95. Both Catholic Charities and the Volunteers of America are running on faith that the community can fund the effort again this year.
Michael Jones, of Spokane, donated $1,000. Wray Farmon of Spokane gave $1,000.
Judith Hudson, of Spokane, donated $300 in memory of Father Frank Bach, “who was the guiding light of the Christmas Bureau for years.” Steve and Theresa Helmbrecht, of Spokane, gave $250.
William Vancleve, of Spokane, gave $200. Jonnie and Chris Schroeder, of Spokane, sent $200. Virginia Pounds donated $200 via Pay Pal.
Willbann and Virginia Terpening, of Spokane, sent $100, as did Marcy and Mark Majeski of Spokane. Daniel Simonson, of Spokane, gave $100 via Pay Pal. John and Beverly Johnson, of Spokane Valley, contributed $100. Jim and Anna Pieratt, of Liberty Lake, donated $100, as did Jeff and Ellen Carpenter of Spokane. Craig Aldworth and Kathryn Ann Hobbs, of Spokane, gave $100 via Pay Pal.
Jeff and Chris Stevens contributed $75 via Pay Pal. Mary Sullivan, of Spokane, donated $50. “Please accept this donation on behalf of my brother Daniel P. Sullivan,” she wrote. “The Christmas Bureau was his favorite volunteer activity when he was alive. Thank you for making Christmas a reality for so many.”
Karen Chicha, of Spokane, contributed $50. Jane Lynch of Omak gave $50 on behalf of her friend Betty Brown. “We no longer purchase Christmas gifts for each other (and) instead choose a worthy cause for donation,” she wrote. “After reading your story on the Christmas Bureau I knew she would appreciate this.”
Pete and Paula Freeman, of Spokane, contributed $50. Duanning Zhou, of Spokane, gave $50 via Pay Pal.
For donations made through Pay Pal, The Spokesman-Review contributed the processing fee.
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