MIAMI (CBS4)- Hundreds of volunteers across South Florida will be participating in a unique 5K Run and Walk come next weekend, and it’s all for a good cause.
Funds from the Miami Children’s Hospital run and walk will benefit children when they are at their most vulnerable. The event also benefits the Neighbors 4 Neighbors’ Adopt a Bear program.
Teddy bears are a symbol of youth, but they are so much more, and are at the heart of CBS4’s Adopt a Bear program.
“Just seeing the smile on their face from getting the bears really made an impact on me and the other ambassadors too,” Bear ambassador Sandy Real said.
Real knows all about the program, she like so many, passionately hands them out all over south Florida.
“I am so thankful to be a part of this great group and this non-profit organization,” she said. “I am glad to be one of the first.”
Real was one of the first to donate $10 and adopt a bear. She is seen more than three years ago delivering the bears to Miami-Dade judges who gives the bears to abused and neglected children who show up in court and are terrified.
CBS4’s Chief Investigator Michele Gillen founded the Adopt a Bear program after learning the justice system shelves were bare of bears.
“So the idea that they didn’t even have a teddy bear to hold on to in their most traumatized moments seemed impossible for me,” Gillen said.
With the support of Neighbors 4 Neighbors, the program quickly spread. Bears went from the justice system, to 911 rescue trucks and South Florida doctors even carried thousands of them to Haiti following the earthquake. Now they’ve made another stop at Miami Children’s Hospital where the program is one of the charities receiving donations in the hospital’s up coming 5K Run Walk.
“When a kid comes to the hospital he is not feeling well,” Lucy Morillo-Agnetti, president and CEO of Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation said. “He wants something to remind him of the comforts of home and that is what you have done with this adopt a bear program.”
The Miami Children’s partnership is a perfect next step for the Adopt a Bear family.
“I am hoping so many people from the public kids, adults and all ages will walk with us run with us,” Gillen said.
And the winner will go home knowing they have raised money to adopt more of bears who will go home with those who need them the most.
So far approximately 1,000 people have signed up, but they are looking for more participants.