Hug-a-BearIn 1988, ALSJ adopted its third program, Operation Hug.
The purpose of the program was to furnish huggable bears to adults and children in crisis. We began donating to the San Jose Police Department (SJPD) who, in a press conference shared that teddy bears donated by AL of San Jose would be used by officers when they encountered children who had suffered physically or psychologically such as accident victims, assault victims and children who experienced stressful situations. The Los Gatos Police Dept. also developed Operation Hug with bears that we donated.

In April 2004, 16 years later, the name of the program Operation Hug was changed to Hug-A-Bear. At that time, approximately 30 dozen bears were given out a year. A director of Rape Crisis commented at the time, ”Each time any counselor, or I, responds to a child at the hospital who has been sexually assaulted, we are acutely aware that that child’s healing will take a long time. But, those cute teddy bears that you’ve helped us place in their arms will remain a giver of unconditional love throughout the healing process.”

Did you know that on a few occasions, the t-shirts came with the wrong logo and color? The bears had to be “redressed”, tags and strings had to be removed.  After that, directions on the invoices stated “Do Not Dress” and we began to dress them ourselves continuing to remove tags and strings. Since that time, we have been able to secure Bears dressed in a t-shirt with our logo.

Hug-a-Bear Delivered to Family Supportive Housing
Hug-a-Bear at Parisi House on the Hill

The SJPD stopped giving out our bears for a period of time.
In 2013 however, a pilot program started up and the Patrol officers began to carry bears in their vehicles to give out to children in distress that they encountered during the course of their duties. The bears needed to be individually bagged in plastic bags with feedback cards inserted into each bag. The bagging was time consuming and more members of AL of San Jose were enlisted to help. Today, police detectives give out our bears when they interview children at the Child Advocacy Center.

In 2017, the Assistance League of San Jose was introduced to Parisi House on the Hill. For a period of time, Hug-A-Bear was the only program involved with Parisi House until expanded services required us to include Parisi House under the Assist-A-Shelter Program. We continue to donate bears for the residents along with many other donated items.

In 2021, Hug A Bear gave 825 teddy bears for children in crisis to five city and county agencies. In October we added the Red Cross and began giving the bears to children in need of support when the Red Cross responds to disasters and to military families through the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces in other settings. In the 2022-2023 years, they were given 100 bears which will be given by the Red Cross to the victims of fires.

Hug-a-Bear and Red Cross Partnership

During the Covid pandemic the leadership had to search for a new vendor because of the supply chain problem. Fortunately we found a vendor in southern California who was able to supply our bears – dressed!

The Hug-a-Bear program has recently gone through many changes with more members able to be involved. Now, many members share in the distribution, each working with a different agency. This allows the clients access to inventory with a personal representative.

Contributions to the Hug-a-Bear program have come from the San Jose Wish Book and Star One Credit Union.

Agencies that we have in the past, or are currently providing bears to, include: The San Jose Police Department and the San Jose Police Department’s Child Interview Center, which serves children who have been sexually and physically abused; the Child Advocacy Center, the YWCA Rape Crisis Center; children temporarily residing with their mothers at two of Santa Clara County’s domestic abuse shelters, one operated by Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, and the other operated by Asian Americans for Community Involvement; children of families who reside at Family Supportive Housing, a homeless shelter in San Jose; Children in the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Pediatric Ward; Children at Parisi House on the Hill; the American Red Cross Silicon Valley; and as Bingo Prizes for Seniors at A Grace SubAcute and Skilled Care and Stonebrook Health and Rehabilitation Center, two Nursing Homes in San Jose.

There have been few weeks that go by that the Assistance League of San Jose does not get a letter from an agency stating how grateful they are to have these bears to give out in moments of crisis.

Have you hugged a bear recently?

Volunteers with Hug-a-Bear