Love Was In the Bear


 Leave it to the Little North Pole to share the love, even when it’s not Christmas. This time the home was decked out in hearts for their Adopt a Bear event, as new bear owners left with full hearts and Joe Mure and Jodi Tucci’s garage was left full of goods for the St. Camillus food pantry.

On Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14, cars lined up along Neponsit Avenue to adopt a special bear born right at the Little North Pole on Christmas 2019. In exchange for a bear, folks were asked to bring a $10 donation as well as non-perishable food items to help support St. Camillus’ weekly food pantry. By the end of the event, several hundred cuddly pink and brown teddy bears had new homes, more than $4,000 was raised to help stock the pantry for weeks to come and the Mure’s garage was packed with food donations, ready to be delivered to the church.

“I think it was very successful,” Mure said of the event. While Sunday was the main event, buzz around the bears spread on social media in the week before, so the cupid squad had been delivering bears all week, and Tucci, a schoolteacher, had adopted out as many as 200 bears to her students and coworkers before Sunday.

“It started out as a huge success. Once we announced it, we had the cupid squad out delivering bears all week long and we’ve collected a nice amount of money to buy some extra food and continue to help out the food pantry,” Mure said.

While the home at 144-03 Neponsit Avenue is known to transform into the Little North Pole each holiday season, Mure wanted to continue to spread that good cheer during a continuously difficult time as the coronavirus pandemic has left many out of work and in need of a little help. With that in mind, the event itself was designed as a drive-by event and everyone who attended was asked to wear masks. “We understand Covid-19 is still here and interrupting a lot of what we do, so we came up with a way to do this to help the kids and help some people in the community,” he said.

“I thought Valentine’s Day was a beautiful day for love and a beautiful day to get together,” Mure said. That love was felt in each child’s heart as they took home a bear complete with its own birth certificate and name. Some also used it as an opportunity to spread the love even further. During the event, a little boy made a donation for a bear, told his little sister to close his eyes, and ran over to her, surprising her with her new sweetheart bear, which she embraced as her face beamed with an ear-to-ear smile.

Joe Featherston, director for the Special Olympics Program at St. Camillus, will utilize the monetary donations to purchase supplies for the food pantry for several weeks. The food pantry is open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon at St. Camillus (99-15 Rockaway Beach Blvd.)

 By Katie McFadden