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We're Going on a Bear Hunt, a Teddy Bear Hunt That is! Nationwide Scavenger Hunt Comes to Orlando

Photo: Oxana Lyashenko @sanateddy
Photo: Oxana Lyashenko @sanateddy

In Central Florida, teddy bears and other stuffed toys have been popping up in the windows of homes and schools. They're part of a nationwide scavenger hunt for children while school campuses are closed.

Homeowners in Wadeview Park in downtown Orlando have been putting teddy bears and jungle animal stuffed toys in their windows for children to find on walks and bike rides. 

Wadeview Park Neighborhood Association President Genie Tuten says the scavenger hunt helps bring a sense of normalcy back to children's lives.

“It just gives the kids something fun to do and not focus on the negative of everything that's going on and being stuck at home and not being able to go play with your friends and all that stuff. I think it's really important to keep the kids occupied and try to keep it as positive as you can so they're not fearful."

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Along with scavenger hunts, Tuten says children have written positive messages to one another in chalk on the streets and sidewalks and community members will light candles in their windows on Wednesday night.

District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan whose put a teddy bear in her window, says these signs of hope and solidarity are crucial right now not just for children, but for adults as well. 

"The problem with this crisis unlike a hurricane or when Pulse massacre happened, we were able to console and hug each other and come together as one community. The awful thing about coronavirus is it stabs at the very heart of who we are as Orlandoans. We can't come together. We can't hug each other. We can't have vigils. We can't have gatherings."

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She says that's why she's encouraging residents throughout her district to put teddy bears in their windows too or to come up with their own way to spread a message of hope.

"Anything that we can do. I've seen some people have put signs in the yard that say, 'It's going to be ok.' Anything that we can do to show that we're united from afar. Even though that's a very hard thing to do. I've been thinking about what I'm going to do other than the teddy bear and I went ahead and I put my Christmas lights up too. Anything that we can do to kind of say, 'It's going to be ok. We are together in this. And we're going to get through the other side'."

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Genie Tuten said starting the scavenger hunt was as simple as one of her neighbors posting the idea on their community Facebook page and other residents were almost instantly on board.

"It's really a nationwide thing. I was just talking to my sister and she said that her daughter lives up in Kansas. She said they're even doing it up there. I don't know who started it, but it's such a great idea. And it just gives kids something to do. Just use your social media to start it. And let people know and of course word of mouth too if they're not on social media, you can tell your neighbors about it."

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Follow the hastag #RandomActsOfCommunity to virtually participate in scavenger hunts around the United States and the world. The scavenger hunts were inspired by the 1989 book  We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

If you'd like to listen to the story, click on the clips above.

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter and fill-in host at WMFE.
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