Anton Community Newspapers  •  132 East 2nd Street  •  Mineola, NY 11501  •  Phone: 516-747-8282  •  FAX: 516-742-5867
Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

A Tale Of Two Bears

The Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA) recently put out an appeal for funds for their Teddy Bears for Kids program. The TRA provides classic Teddy Bears for hospitalized children for whom the need is great: they bring smiles to them. They also have a new teddy bear made entirely in America that Laurence Pels, TRA executive director, said he hopes, going forward, will be the norm. Presently, it will be tied to special events such as the Feb. 25 opening reception at the National Arts Club in New York City.

James Pehta, TRA Teddy Bear for Kids Project chair, said, “Our Teddy Bear Program is very appreciative of the members of the TRA who contributed to our program. We have been able to increase the program substantially, from those individuals who have said, ‘I want to sponsor a teddy bear event at a hospital; or in memory of a loved one.’

“This year we are very proud to introduce a 100 percent USA-made teddy bear that is made exclusively within the United States,” said Pehta.

“Even the stuffing is made in America,” added Pels.

The special USA-Teddy Bears for Kids reception is being held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South.  Tickets are available on the TRA web site.

“In 2013 we sourced a U.S. company that manufactures American-made teddy bears; even the stuffing comes from the U.S. The bear wears a polka dot bandana, harking back to when Colonel Roosevelt wore his iconic Rough Rider neckerchief of navy with white polka dots in the Spanish-American War action in Cuba.

“Our focus for the reception is on people buying tickets for $125 that includes the new American bear that will be donated to a hospital. The tickets are not too expensive but also the donation is doing charitable work,” said Pels.

“We are thrilled to announce that the first batch of these USA teddy bears will be delivered to NYU Langone Medical Center—one of New York City’s premiere medical institutions,” Pehta added.

While Oyster Bay is center to the story of TR’s presidency, he has a long history in New York City. “We are trying to bring some of TR and his background into Manhattan. This is not only for children in New York hospitals, but is a good place for us to fundraise. We are not trying to tell Chicago, Kentucky or Indiana…that they are less important, but starting in NYC, his birthplace,” said Pels.

The TBFK Program is always looking for donations but they are also looking for hospitals across the country to partner with for the gift giving. “Although people can ask for the bears to go to a certain hospital, we need to have a relationship with that hospital,” he said.

Working on projects such as this means creating teams, as in the TRA Public Speaking Contest. “We need relationships with the teachers at the schools involved or there is no contest, so the TRA is a facilitator in all these programs. Jim Pehta is on top of the TBFK Program. I am happy to participate but this is Jim’s program,”

Jim’s TBFK Project

Theodore Roosevelt is known as “The Father of the Teddy Bear.” Besides being a great family man, he showed his good sportsmanship when he refused to shoot an old black bear tied to a willow tree, at the conclusion of an extensive hunt. That story was made popular by cartoonist Clifford Berryman who did the original cartoon of the event and used bears in future political cartoons of TR.

For almost 30 years, the Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA), a 501(c)(3), has been providing teddy bears to seriously ill children that are hospitalized. These teddy bears are something they can hold on to, they provide comfort and can be a vital tool the doctor can use to explain procedures and treatments so that they are not so scary for the child.

Since 1986, the TRA has donated over 80,000 teddy bears to seriously ill children all over the United States. We count on the support from caring people like you to make this happen every year.

Chair Pehta recently sent out an email to the TRA membership saying that their supply of bears was depleted and they needed help to order more to be on hand when a hospital calls for help. Their goal is to raise $5,000 in the next few weeks to be able to place their next order for the classic bears.

The campaign has been a success.

Pehta said, “We especially want to thank those people who have contributed to our latest Teddy Bear fundraising appeal. We have already raised thousands of dollars to continue our mission and supply more teddy bears to hospitalized children as the need arises across the United States.”

An Avocation

Pehta said when he joined the TRA in 2008 he was asked by the then current director, Jim Bruns, to expand the Teddy Bear Project. “At the time it was concentrated only in New York City. I worked to develop a nationwide program starting in 2009.  Through press articles and member outreach additional hospitals have come on board once they heard the good news that the TRA supplied teddy bears to hospitalized children.”

Today there are 64 hospitals nationwide that receive the gifts for children in their care.

Pehta is enjoying an active and rewarding retirement. The founder and vice president of LPC, Inc. a computer software firm that was purchased by Pitney Bowes Corp. in 1988. He retired from corporate life in 1991. “Since that time I have spent considerable time and energy in non-profit groups, throughout the US. That includes the leadership roles, which I established in Washington, D.C. after retirement; and I am especially proud of the work I did for the National Postal Museum, a Smithsonian entity, where I chaired the business council for almost 12 years.”

“Jim Bruns found me when he was the director of the TRA, when trying to create a Presidential Museum. He asked me to raise money for the potential TR museum. Bruns is currently involved as the director of all of the US Naval Museums in the United States and I am still working with him as a strategic advisor, as necessary as he refines each of the museums around the nation. There are about 10 or 11 of them.”

Jim Pehta and his wife Marjorie, Oak Brook, Illinois residents, came to Oyster Bay to work on the projects. He said the TBFKP “just snowballed from there.”

The TRA held several TBFKP events at the TR Birthplace in NYC, but he said, “Due to safety issues with the TR Birthplace we can no longer do the events there. There are problems with the fire exit.”

 The project is close to his heart and he added, “There is nothing more rewarding than the smile of a child who has been given a brand new teddy bear to hold when they are facing a life threatening illness. It is priceless.”

 If you can contribute $25, $50, $100, or more, they would be most appreciative of your efforts. “Perhaps you would consider this in honor of a loved one for Valentine’s Day, or for someone you would like to remember in this very special way,” he suggested.

The public is already responding. “The email appeal has been a wonderful success in just three days since its release,” said Pehta on Sunday, Jan. 26.

Please send your check or credit card information to the TRA, P.O. Box 719, Oyster Bay, NY 11771. Please mark your donation for the classic teddy bear fund.