Teddy bears in decline

For more than twenty years, teddy bears have been collected during the Northwest Cherry Festival to help children at the local hospital during times of crisis.

For more than 20 years, motorcyclists have come to the Northwest Cherry Festival to participate in the “Teddy Bear Ride” that precedes the Cherry Festival Parade. They donate stuffed animals for Mid Columbia Medical Center, and hospital staff pass on the bears to kids who need comfort during stressful times.

The generosity of riders has yielded hundreds—probably thousands—of stuffed animals over the years. But bear numbers this past summer were insufficient to meet the year’s need, and ride organizers are teaming up with area businesses to help fill the gap.

For the last fourteen years, members of the River City chapter of Abate Oregon Inc.,  a motorcycle awareness and safety group, have assisted with the Teddy Bear Parade, said Teresa Hepker, secretary for the chapter. They are joined each year by members of Gorge Gospel Riders, who have taken on the task of traffic control and assisting local law enforcement along the downtown parade route.

Prior to the parade, riders gather and ride the parade route, displaying their motorcycles—and their teddy bears. “Since motorcycles travel a bit faster than most parade floats, we started going around the downtown parade route twice, to help make the gap smaller between the bikes and the rest of the parade,” Hepker said.

“The riders are proud to display their motorcycles, and their stuffed animals, as they go.” At the end of the parade, the riders offload their fuzzy friends into the waiting arms of hospital volunteers, to stock up their supply for the coming year.

“Sadly, in 2018 the number of bears we collected was not enough to last a whole year,” Hepker said. “This year, in partnership with a number of local businesses, we invite everyone to help make the ‘Bear Drive’ a whole-community project.”

The group is asking for donations of new, clean, stuffed animals, 12” or smaller. Donations can be dropped off during the month of April at the following sponsoring locations in The Dalles: Avalon Biossage (501 E. 12th St.); Freebridge Brewing (710 E. 2nd St.); Kainos Coffee (418 E. 2nd St.); Manion Studios (110 E. 2nd St.); Rivertap Pub (703 E. 2nd St.); Route 30 Bottles & Brews (317 E. 2nd St.) and Westwind Frame & Gallery (412 E. 2nd St.).

For more information about the project, call Hepker at 541-965-2701 or email tchepker@gmail.com.

ABATE of Oregon, Inc. promotes motorcycle awareness, education, safety and liberty.

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