Project Teddy Bear
Change a life by donating
Project Teddy Bear
Donate your new stuffed animals at any Bank of American Fork location. Our centers can only take new stuffed animals because of health codes, but we hope you will help us to collect enough new stuffed animals to help at-risk Utah children. The presentation of the stuffed animals will be held December 13th at 11 A.M. at the American Fork branch.
Project Teddy Bear is a community service project benefitting Utah children and sponsored by Bank of American Fork. Customers, employees and community members donate teddy bears and other stuffed animals that are given to the Utah Valley Family Support & Treatment Center in Orem, Salt Lake Valley Family Support Center (locations in Midvale, Taylorsville, West Valley City and Sugarhouse), Family Connection Center (in Layton/Clearfield and Bountiful) and other crisis and service centers.
Starting around Thanksgiving, employees, customers and other members of the community can begin dropping off new stuffed animals to any Bank of American Fork location. Following the presentation, teddy bears and other stuffed animals will be donated to the support centers.
These centers have the mission of preventing and treating child abuse through education, therapy and outreach. Crisis nurseries are available for children who have been abused, are in danger of being abused or are awaiting placement in a foster home. A soft teddy bear to hug during these times of trauma or loneliness is a great comfort to the children. At-risk children also undergo therapy sessions at the centers throughout the year. A teddy bear gives them something to hold during sessions, provides much-needed comfort and helps in the healing process. It may also be the only Christmas present a child receives.
This year will be the 20th anniversary of Project Teddy Bear at Bank of American Fork. When the bank started the program in 2000, it collected 237 bears. Since then, more than 100,000 bears have been donated to Utah’s at-risk children. Bank of American Fork and community members collected an all-time high of 20,466 stuffed animals in 2013.
To see how the American Fork branch is transformed during Project Teddy Bear, check out this Time Lapse Video from 2009 Donations. You can also find testimonials from employees of the treatment centers on YouTube.
Thank you for your help.
The teddy bears and stuffed animals collected every year are used in play therapy to comfort children and aid in the healing process for at-risk children who have been through traumatic experiences. Below are some examples about how the bears have been helpful.
- Three-year-old Tessa Hunter came in with 13 stuffed animals that she, and her sister Jordyn (age 4), no longer needed. She stood at the base of the tree placing each animal in the pile, when her Mom took out a cute stuffed dog Tessa began to cry "not my doggy" but continued to count the remaining animals through her tears. It was so cute, and although she wanted to keep the doggy for herself she left it there for another child to enjoy.
- A girl came to the American Fork Branch (name unknown) to donate almost 30 bears and dolls that had been given to her, a few years ago, while she was battling cancer. She is now cancer free and wanted to share the bears with someone else who needed them.
- A mother in LifeStart Village, the Salt Lake Family Support Center's self-sufficiency and housing project, shared with her case manager that she wasn't sure there would be any Christmas gifts for her 6-year-old daughter Emily. The mother discovered that, thanks to Project Teddy Bear, there would be a variety of stuffed animals available for her daughter to choose from at the Center's Christmas dinner. When it was Emily's turn to choose a stuffed animal, she gently touched a glossy dark teddy bear. With wide eyes she asked, "Is this mine? For sure?" Upon being reassured it really was her's, she hugged the bear to her chest and happily skipped away with her newfound friend.
- Samantha, another child at LifeStart Village, is seldom seen without her teddy bear since she received it last Christmas. Last week Samantha brought her teddy bear into LifeStart Village Director's office. "Will you please watch him while I go to my Girl Scout meeting?" she asked. The director agreed to babysit.
- In one play therapy session, a child put her abusive father on trial by setting up a teddy bear court. Using the bears, the child was able to share her feelings in a safe way.
- Another child was so traumatized by neglect and abuse that he spoke to his therapist from inside a cardboard box for two years, clinging only to his trusted teddy bear he had received as a result of Project Teddy Bear.
- Other children have benefited from bears when transitioning between foster homes, being removed from an unsafe home environment or simply receiving a gift they can call their own.
- The Family Support Center in Salt Lake County shares their bears or "lovies" with the Utah Highway Patrol to give to children who are taken from their homes, in accidents or other traumatic situations.
- The Family Support Center in Salt Lake County shares bears with the Christmas Box House, which provides temporary shelter and assessment services to children up to the age of 11 who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.
- A few days before Christmas, several children from the same family—all of whom were undergoing therapy for issues related to trauma, received a bear as a Christmas present. Later that evening, the family was in a serious car accident, though no one was injured. One little boy held his bear tightly during the accident, on the way to and from the hospital and while he was examined for injuries. He said, "The bears kept us safe."
- A five-year-old boy had been in therapy for several months to deal with three deaths that occurred over a six-month period. The little boy named his bear and takes the bear everywhere with him. The bear has helped him feel safe, which is particularly important for a child who has dealt with so much grief in such a short period of time.
- One impoverished family was using the parent advocate program to learn safe and effective disciplinary skills. The only furniture in the home was a mattress and a non-working TV. The bears were used as disciplinary rewards and incentives, as well as birthday gifts for the children.
- Bears are given as Christmas gifts (sometimes the only gift they will receive) at the LifeStart Village, a shared community for families trying to get back on their feet. A blind single mother named Jackie was able to get two bears for her young daughters. The girls sleep with the bears every night.
- At LifeStart Village, bears are given as prizes and gifts at birthday parties for moms who otherwise would not have afforded them.
Over the years, we have seen many customers and community members give their time and money to support Project Teddy Bear. Below are some of the more notable contributions.
- In 2009, the American Fork PTA got involved, collecting bears at all seven American Fork public schools.
- In 2009, customer Roger Peterson was at the AF branch with his 11-year-old daughter McKenzie. After seeing the display of teddy bears, McKenzie urged her father to do something. As the regional sales manager for his company, Roger offered a discount to all of his customers who participated in Project Teddy Bear. He also contacted his friend who was the service manager at the Lehi Texas Roadhouse. His friend got the Lehi and Sandy locations of the restaurant to give away free appetizers for every bear donated. Additionally, Roger took it upon himself to contact 97.1 ZHT and got an on-air interview with the morning DJs to talk about Project Teddy Bear.
- In 2008 and 2009, Spanish Fork High School Letterman's Club held a competition amongst classes to bring in the most teddy bears. They donated over 1200 teddy bears over the two years.
- In 2008, teenage sisters Elizabeth and Hannah Jones collected 275 bears.
- One family asked its extended family members to bring a bear to their Thanksgiving dinner to be donated to Project Teddy Bear.
- Nick Madsen from Bailey's Moving & Storage is a vital partner in making Project Teddy Bear a success. As Project Teddy Bear has grown over the years, we have needed professional help to transport all these bears to the family support centers. For several years, Bailey's has provided hundreds of boxes, rolls of tape, a large moving truck and employees to help load and transport the bears—a donation undoubtedly valued in the thousands of dollars.
- Kelly Smith and her colleagues at the American Fork PTA organized Project Teddy Bear drives at all seven of American Fork,s schools. Their efforts have resulted in hundreds of bears donated.
- Every year, Roderick Enterprises provides a significant cash donation that is used to purchase hundreds of teddy bears.
- A few years ago, a young child recovering from her own battle with cancer donated all of her get-well bears to the cause.
You can also view some images or media items from the Teddy Bear Project