It’s the season of giving in Michiana.
On Wednesday, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, along with St. Joseph County Airport Authority Board of Directors President, Abe Marcus, and Director of Administration and Finance, Michael Guljas, donated the first three bears of this year’s 4th annual Bears in the Air program.
In the airport’s atrium, a festive ‘bear’s den’ welcomes travelers. They’re collecting new teddy bears through December 21, which will be delivered to children at local hospitals, and accepting monetary donations which will be donated.
“I’ve had the pleasure of giving a couple of bears for children over the years. It’s pretty amazing… and then the cards and letters we get from moms and people who are the recipients of these things is just heart touching,” says Mike Daigle, Executive Director of the South Bend International Airport.
“It’s a community of people who have always cared about the most vulnerable among us, and there’s nobody more vulnerable than medically fragile children, and children experiencing hospitalization and are not well. To make that experience less scary with the bears that are offered through this program says a lot of the type of community that we are and makes a real difference to them,” adds South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
In previous years, the program has provided nearly 2,300 teddy bears to local children, and $16,000 to the Robert L. Miller Sr. Veteran’s Center. This year’s goal is 1,200 teddy bears.
The official kick-off reception for the program is Friday, Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. All it takes to get in is a teddy bear or $10 donation.
If you’d like donate a bear but are not traveling to or from the airport anytime soon, don’t worry. The airport has free 30 minute parking — just enough time to get in, drop off a bear, and get out. The gift shop will also be selling bears inside the airport.