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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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No Teddy Bear Toss? No problem. Chiefs sell shirts for Christmas Fund

By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

The COVID-19 pandemic has put Teddy Bear Toss on ice this year. But the Spokane Chiefs have come up with what they hope is another crowd-pleaser that still puts a little joy into Christmas for the region’s less-fortunate children.

Usually, thousands of bears, from small to life-sized, rain down from the stands after the Chiefs score their first goal. Last year, a record 8,604 bears hit the ice. The bears are then picked up, loaded into trucks and delivered to the Christmas Bureau. The Bureau is a joint effort with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review. It hands out food, toys and books to families in need every Christmas.

Other teams in the league have followed the Chiefs’ lead and are involved in annual charity efforts as well, said Vice President of Sponsorships Jay Stewart.

“The Teddy Bear Toss has really become a staple of the league,” he said.

This year, each team in the league will sell “T is for Toys” T-shirts featuring their own mascot. Boomer the Bear will naturally be featured on the shirt sold by the Chiefs. The shirts will be sold for $20 each and the proceeds will be donated to the Christmas Bureau, Stewart said.

“That’s the socially distanced Teddy Bear Toss,” he said.

The T-shirts will be available online at beginning Tuesday. They’ll remain on sale through early December, when the proceeds will be delivered to the Christmas Bureau.

One of the key issues is that the Spokane Chiefs’ truncated season isn’t scheduled to begin until Jan. 8, Stewart said.

The Chiefs thought it was important to keep supporting the Christmas Bureau even though the Teddy Bear Toss couldn’t happen this year, Stewart said.

“That’s just such a big part of being a part of the community,” he said.

Stewart said he knows people will miss the annual tradition. It usually sells out not long after tickets go on sale.

“It’s our No. 1 promotional night,” he said. “That’s going to be real tough.”

Stewart said he understands some people may have purchased bears, but asked they not drop them off at the Spokane Chiefs office.

“We wouldn’t have the ability to take them,” he said. “We don’t have the storage space to take teddy bears.”

The Teddy Bear Toss isn’t the only practice changed by the pandemic. Instead of having people come to the Spokane County Fairgrounds to get assistance and pick out toys, people were asked to apply for Christmas Bureau assistance online. The online application let parents pick out their top three gift selections for each child from a toy catalog.

Recipients will be given a scheduled day and time to come to the fairgrounds in December to pick up their gifts in a drive-thru.

The goal again this year is to collect $535,000 to provide grocery store vouchers to each family or single individual as well as a toy or a book for each child.

There will be daily stories in The Spokesman-Review beginning the day after Thanksgiving to report on fundraising efforts. Everyone who makes a donation will be recognized in the paper unless they request anonymity.

Last year, donors from as close as Spokane and as far away as Japan exceeded the goal and donated $557,994.12, which provided help to 7,973 households.

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