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By Maple Frye

Loaves and Fishes Ruben Garza and Rachel Carter webBonham’s Bears is an all-volunteer group with members from other parks but based at Green Bay South. We make teddy bears and donate them to first responders and children support organizations. On February 15, we gave away 375 teddy bears to eight organizations. Mama Bear is Rachel Carter. We asked the organizations about their work and how our teddy bears helped. Here are their comments.

Harlingen Fire Department. At accidents and fires, children are distraught. Every fire truck has teddy bears. We give them to children to comfort them and distract them while we assess the children’s injuries.

Harlingen Police Department. Much of what the Harlingen Fire Department said applies to our work as well. We deal with children in school settings as well as in patrol settings.

La Feria Fire and Police Department. The departments had something come up and were unable to attend the official giveaway, but they did receive an allotment of teddy bears.

484th District Juvenile Court, Honorable Judge Adela Kowalski-Garza. Texas can prosecute children as young as 10 years old and the system is harsh. Children are arrested as “domestic terrorists” when they make threats to avoid going to school. Children are arrested for self-medicating with drugs because they are neglected and ill. Children are undressed and photographed to prove bruises were incurred before and not during detention. Children may appear before me in chains and shackles, said the judge.Rachel-Carter-and-Ronald-McDonald-House-Charities-South-Texas-Miriam-Gelman-web.gif

But Texas’ philosophy is that we want the children to know we can help them. I have a comfort dog named “Peanut,” whose wagging tail and presence brings smiles. We have a psychologist who offers guitar lessons and music therapy. I am learning laughter therapy, so we can add that as part of building coping skills. Community service builds work skills and children appreciate the attention and guidance. Released detainees and their families are shown into a room that my court bailiff, Juan Ramirez, and I put together. From the room, we give them gifts of children and adult books in English and Spanish and we give them teddy bears.

Loaves and Fishes, Ruben Garza, head of the Raymondville branch. I'd like to thank all of the agencies, police departments, and the Honorable Judge Adela Kowalshi-Garza for her dedication and commitment to the children. We've worked with all of these agencies over the years, and we appreciate their dedication to the children and families during these trying times. Through our Family Emergency Assistance program, we have helped many families get through difficult times. We appreciate the Bonham Bears' effort and dedication to this mission. We see how excited and happy your teddy bears make the children feel in our community. Teddy bears represent care and compassion, giving children hope.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Texas. Miriam Gelman, Development Manager for the Rio Grande Valley. The Family Rooms at Valley Baptist Medical Center (Harlingen) and at South Texas Health System Children’s (pediatric hospital in Edinburg) give families a respite. In a home setting, family members can take a shower, make work calls, use the kitchen, and rest and eat. “Your donation of [teddy] bears helps us to provide cheer and comfort to children and their families….”
Ronald McDonald House Charities has resumed collecting pull tabs locally. You can drop them off at the Family Rooms Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Please call to arrange a drop off. For Harlingen, call (956) 389-4747. For Edinburg, call (956) 388-6967.

Rachel Carter Julie Herrington and Judge Adela Kowalski Garza webChildren’s Bereavement Center Rio Grande Valley, Julie Herrington The Children’s Bereavement Center is on the second floor of Valley Baptist Medical Center. The services are free for children 3 – 24 years old and therapy sessions include their families. We meet children who may not understand or accept the reality of loss. Broken children can have behavior problems, attention deficit disorders, depression, poor performance in school, and shorter lives. After losing support, grieving children have a hard time loving themselves and others. We help them develop coping skills and offer them return visits when they are ready for the next step. We have girl empowerment programs at the gym. We held an outreach program at the police center. We hold hand puppet party dances for the children. Judge Adela Kowalski-Garza asked if her hand puppet party dances could be part of the music therapy sessions at the courthouse. Julie Herrington said she had the same idea. The teddy bears go in our buddy barn, where children can select and keep a buddy. You can go online for a virtual tour, or you are welcome to do a physical tour of our center.

Thanks, from Bonham Bears to all who support them. We thank the La Feria Subway for their donation of sandwiches for the event and we thank the Winter Texan Times for its help in connecting us with our newest recipient, the 484th District Juvenile Court.