Buddy Bear™Weekend was initially founded over 22 years ago by Kevin Bonura. Kevin created the idea of a weekend long event to collect new teddy bears for children in trauma at the urging of one of his former clients who was looking to create a charity in that client's daughter's name, who lost her life due to a tragic car accident. Buddy Bear™ Weekend has generated over 25,000 bears for children in trauma, and it is growing.
Kevin attended an event at the local Sam's Club, talking to all of the customers passing by and convincing a lot of those people to buy a stuffed bear inside and donate the bear for the fund drive. The final tally of stuffed teddy bears totaled about 140. Kevin then asked how long would these 140 bears last when an emergency response officer comes on the scene and delivers one of these cuddly cuties to a child in need. With the answer that depending on how many emergency situations that involve a young child, the bears may only last about one month at best. So when he asked "...well what happens to the other 11 months in the year?"... The Junior Chamber had no answer. This “no answer” situation called for more special thinking and developing a plan to make sure that there would be enough bears to last the entire year. Thus, the birth of Buddy Bear™ Weekend! It was through Kevin's organized plan that Buddy Bear™ Weekend came to life. One day a year would not generate enough bears to help first responders during the year. It would take more than just one day to start gaining traction. So by organizing a weekend long event [rather than a one day event], there was a much better chance to collect more bears. That first weekend event would be well-attended and well-remembered.
From Kevin's original idea of Buddy Bear™ Weekend™ spawned the creation of the Buddy Bear™ Den.
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Kevin wanted to make sure that there was more information on Child Safety, Literacy & Education, Nutrition and Going Green. By adding the Buddy Bear™ Den to the equation and event, more parents, children and teachers would attend. That first Buddy Bear™ Weekend event saw the first Buddy Bear™ Parade which kicked off the weekend event. This parade showcased preschool children marching with their school banner, teacher and chaperone right up to the entrance of the Buddy Bear™ Den. It was here that the children would participate in the reading of the proclamation and the ribbon cutting ceremony at the entrance of the Buddy Bear™ Den. All of the local television news crews and newspapers came out to film the event, take pictures and interview several of the participating sponsors, children and teachers. Buddy Bear™ Weekend became a beautiful weekend event where the public saw children helping children in trauma. Hugo donated over 8,000 square feet of indoor space which morphed into the Buddy Bear™ Den. The event was very successful. In fact the very first event collected over 2,400 bears in 3 days. Buddy Bear™ Weekend got bigger and better in year two when during the 3 day event over 14,000 bears were collected to help children in trauma focus on the bear rather than the problem at hand. Now Buddy Bear™ Weekend expanded and was showcased at one of the biggest and best venues from Vero Beach to West Palm Beach...The City of Port St. Lucie Civic Center. Buddy Bear™ Weekend of The Treasure Coast was very successful, collecting over 2,400 brand new stuffed Teddy Bears for children in trauma.
Over 22 years ago, Hugo Liberti, owner of the Farmer's Market Mall in West Palm Beach, Florida, contacted Kevin Bonura, his advertising director, and asked him to come up with a charity in honor of his daughter, Stefanie, who was a passenger of a vehicle involved in a tragic automobile accident. Hugo wanted to make sure that the charity would depict exactly the type of person Stefanie was. Stefanie was fun, kind, caring and always wanted to help others.