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We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day! We’re not scared.
So begins the beloved award-winning children’s picture book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrator Helen Oxenbury that has inspired people across the world to put stuffed bears in their windows to create a “bear hunt” for families out on a walk or a drive through the neighborhood.
It’s a great activity for little ones during scary times of social distancing because of the coronavirus.
Matthew Berry, 41, first saw the idea posted by Meghan Harrigan in the neighborhood Facebook page for Woodgate, a suburb not far from Countryside Mall in Clearwater. She had posted a Bear Hunt as an event on Friday afternoon and pretty soon the neighborhood exploded with bears in the windows, the trees, in the backs of cars and under fences, he said.
“I would guess more than 100 houses had bears and other stuffed animals, and everybody started posting their address so it would be easier to find. They even put up clues, like, ‘There’s a bear in the window of my car or on the fence,’" Berry said.
He took his son Benjamin, 3, out for a walk to hunt bears after they placed a few of their own around their house.
“I thought it was great idea and we have a good number of kids here and they like to walk around and ride their bikes so we already have a lot of movement around here,” Berry said. “It’s just so nice to have something positive, that’s the most fun part about it, instead of sitting home being gloomy.”
In the Lutz neighborhoods of Calusa Trace and Van Dyke Estates, where Schwarzkopf Elementary School’s mascot is the Bears, the neighborhood has bears in dozens of windows and on front porches and lawns so the kids can count them as they go through the neighborhood.
“It’s good to know that I have neighbors who have my back," Brittni Roberts of Tampa posted on Facebook. "They are showing me that although we can’t physically be together we are all still bonded.”
The Lakewood Estates neighborhood in St. Petersburg even published a map on its Facebook page so families could more easily find the houses that have bears in the window.
Michael Dukes, 46, grew up in Lakewood Estates and he took his son Tucker, 8, on a bike ride to hunt bears.
“We found eight of them without using the map. I wanted it to be more challenging and figured it was a way to spend more time together out of the house,” Dukes said. “We had a great time and talked about things as we rode around.”
The Lakewood Estates neighborhood association posted the bear hunt as a one-hour event on Thursday and it became quite festive.
“Folks sat in their driveways and waved as others drove or cycled by, trying to spot the teddy bears hidden in yards and windows,” said Kendra O’Connor, 52, a mom of four who lives in Lakewood Estates. “One household even played jazz on their driveway as people passed.”
Canadian journalist Daniele Hamamdjian tweeted, “To the parent (it’s gotta be a parent) who came up with this idea, THANK YOU. Explaining to a 4-year old why playdates aren’t allowed anymore is heartbreaking, so “Going on a Bear Hunt” during our walks is the distraction we needed.”
Next, Lakewood Estates is encouraging people to put up Christmas lights as a show of solidarity and fun. And there’s a new Facebook group that was started this week called Pinellas County’s Wild Animal Safari that was formed to allow families to organize and publicize where to find “wild animal safaris” of all kinds of stuffed animals throughout the area. Inspired by the bear hunts, organizer Krystal French chose a wild animal safari, “because it will add a little variety to the search.”
The book that inspired the hunt is fitting. “We’re not scared,” says the family as they head out. And when the family in the book faces an obstacle, they say something we can all keep in mind:
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!
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