We were so honored to host a special Rescue Bear-Making Experience led by Erin Fountain, Executive Director of Institute for Positive Mental Health (IPMH) on December 8, 2020 with a community of incredible Junior Justice League friends. It was especially exciting to have caregivers doing this activity with their kids. All are welcome at Junior Justice League!
Ms. Erin started us out getting our bodies moving with a 1-minute dance break, which was a super fun way to break the ice and help us all loosen up. With so much time spent sitting at our desks in front of screens, it’s so important to remember to exercise and take breaks and take care of our bodies, in whatever ways work for us.
Ms. Erin led us through a joyful and thought-provoking bear-making experience, helping guide us through the many steps to make our bears. As she has said, “The purpose of the Bear Making Experience is to give people hope during difficult times.” She made sure to emphasize the unique and personal aspects of our creations, taking away the pressure of making the perfect bear in the service of creating something special for someone else – and ourselves.
One of our participants, G., regaled us with bear-related jokes and puns. Here’s one gem: What did the bear say after dinner?….. I’m stuffed.
Ms. Erin patiently showed us the many steps for making our bears, demonstrating each step on the bear she made – and often shifting camera angles so we could see her doing the step herself. You can see all the directions for making bears at home in our blog post here. She often repeated the steps to ensure everyone progressed together – and responded to our many questions. It’s clear she has had much experience making bears – and helping others have positive experiences making them. It’s always challenging trying something new – and we all get better with practice.
One benefit of Zoom is that we were able to spotlight our bear makers throughout the program for them to share their in-process and finished creations – and allow us all to marvel at their beauty and creativity. It feels so good to enable people to have the opportunity to share their successes with the group without too much pressure. (Our bear making even inspired some fantastic sock puppet creating, which, of course, reminded me of New Kid by Jerry Craft.)
We were also joined by our friend, Niles Township Supervisor Bonnie Kahn Ognisanti, who made an adorable bear and bunny, who are now living at Niles Township Government!
Bonnie also shared that people can still participate in creating and sharing ornaments for Niles Township’s Tree of Peace at the township government. Bonnie also shared the resources that Niles Township provides to our community. She shared information about the Niles Township Food Pantry. The Food Pantry is also seeking donations of toiletries, if people are looking to support them. She also shared the township has expanded their financial assistance programs, including Child Care Scholarships. She also shared that if people from outside of Niles Township contact them, they will often be redirected to the right people outside of the township.
During the program, we talked about plans for donating our bears. G. shared that he’s going to give his bear to his nurse neighbor! Bears can be a fantastic way to express our appreciation for the first responders in our community.
We will actually be donating our bears to our local senior living community, Lincolnwood Place! It feels wonderful to know our bears will be reaching people in our community and bringing them joy. You can drop off your donated bear at our curb-side walk-up station and let our staff know to retrieve it.
If you have gotten a bear-making kit in our Great Green Box, please share your bear making at home experiences with us! We’d love to see what you create. Everyone is welcome to make bears – just remember to attribute these ideas to Erin Fountain and the Institute for iPositive Mental Health (IPMH).
It has been a pleasure and a joy to partner with Erin and the Institute for Positive Mental Health (IPMH). We had an absolutely wonderful time planning and hosting this program together – and like the bears, doing things in community to support each other helps us all feel good. I highly recommend partnering with Erin for a Bear-Making Experience at your library, school, organization, and community!
Feel free to let us know if you have ideas for future Junior Justice League programs! We’re taking a winter break for live JJL sessions but we’ll have activities in our Great Green Box you can do at home. We’ll return in March with more fantastic crafting, community and kindness!