Dedicated to the fond memory of ‘The Okanagan’s Very Own’ Ron Evans (March 22, 1938 – November 14, 2011), without whose caring and compassion the legacy of the Good News Bears would not have been possible.
It is often said that if we can do one good deed per day, we can change the world. Twenty-two years ago, nobody at the Okanagan’s Very Own CHBC could have imagined that one small stuffed bear would become the catalyst to raising almost $3.2 million dollars for Okanagan Shuswap Food Banks, a number that will continue to grow, this year.
Longtime CHBC Weatherman, Mike Roberts, explains, “The bears began in 1989, when one of our news reporters was in Salmon Arm doing a story with a company called, Bears at Bedtime. he owner said, ‘why not take this bear back and see what you can do with it.’ So that night on the weather I said, ‘listen, if you send me a donation to the Salmon Arm Food Bank, then we’ll draw from all the donations and give the bear away.’ We raised about $800 for the Salmon Arm Food Bank that year… one bear.
“At the time we started Good News Bears, our General Manager, Ron Evans, said it was important to him because he’d come from a large family that didn’t always have enough to go around, and the Food Bank helped them out when he was a young fella,” says Mike. “We realized this was a very important organization to back.”
The next year four bears arrived at CHBC, including one sponsored by the RCMP. That year, about $10,000 was raised and divvied up between the Shuswap, North Okanagan, Central Okanagan and South Okanagan Food Banks.
“The following year there were nine bears, then fifteen, then twenty-four. Now, we are up to well over one hundred bears, every year,” says Mike. “At no time did we ever call anyone up and say, ‘buy a bear.’ People just saw the bears and thought it would be great to sponsor one of their own, so they called up the bear maker and said, ‘hey, make us a bear… we want him to have a nice brown hat, maybe a suitcase and some glasses.’ And that is how the bears are made and donated to us. I think one of my favorites, this year, is the Search and Rescue bear that happened when the RCAF Wing in Penticton got together with the Search and Rescue 442 Squadron in Comox and got some authentic flight suites sent over so we could make some bears out of actual flight suite material, including all of the flashes and shoulder badges. The RCAF Association even sent a hat badge which is absolutely historic,” he says. “That’s the one everybody points to and I say, great, send in a cheque.”
Mike introduces the Good News Bears throughout the campaign on his evening weather forecast. Viewers are told to send in a cheque made out to the Food Bank of their choice. A random draw is made the week before Christmas to determine who wins the bears, which are then delivered to the winners during that final week.
It is a challenging time for the Kelowna Food Bank, as demand is high and donations are down. They report Christmas hamper registration is now over 1,200 for this year, well over the 839 hampers distributed last year. And that doesn’t take into account regular hamper distribution and other Nutrition Improvement Program demands.
“People are working two or three part-time jobs trying to maintain a roof over their heads and not able to afford food… that shouldn’t happen in Canada,” says Mike. “For that reason, Food Banks are a sadly essential component of our community and they are seeing a huge increase in the number of people needing their help heading into Christmas, and many of those are children. It is critical,” he says.
“This year, we’ve anticipated and we’re seeing fewer donations coming in, as well, because the economy is so bad and unemployment is high,” says Mike. “Even a lot of people who are working and typically support the Food Banks aren’t able to make donations right now. With the drastic increase to the cost of food… I mean, look at the cost of peanut butter, the simple staples families need just to survive… people are struggling trying to put food on their own table. So not only is the demand high, but the ability of the community to support that demand is compromised,” he says.
“Food Banks, particularly right now, need your help. Every dollar that comes in is a remarkable dollar. If you can give a little something, good things can happen. Positive things can happen.”
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
Please indicate if you wish for your name not to be listed on Castanet along with your donation amount – we automatically list it if the donor does not indicate otherwise.
Make a donation on Castanet (www.castanet.net) CAST-A-LIGHT Campaign from now until December 31st, 2011. (A tax receipt will be e-mailed to you for donations over $10.)
Drop your CAST-A-LIGHT donation off at the Kelowna Community Food Bank at 1265 Ellis Street (Downtown Kelowna) between 9 AM and 4 PM, Monday-Friday.
Mail in your CAST-A-LIGHT donation to:
Kelowna Community Food Bank
1265 Ellis Street, Kelowna, BC