Hope Bear, the much-loved mascot of the Anglican Foundation of Canada’s (AFC) Kids Helping Kids Fund, has been going places. Hope Bear has lounged on a beach chair in South Beach, Miami, looked out over the walls of the ancient capital of M’dina in Malta and taken in an old-fashioned fish and chips dinner in St. John’s, Nfld. And that is merely a small selection of the exotic locales in which Hope Bear has been photographed.
The photos are part of the Foundation’s newly launched campaign, dubbed Where in the World Is Hope Bear? The campaign page on the AFC’s website encourages people to bring Hope Bear wherever they travel, and to take a few pictures along the way.
The Hope Bear initiative began in 2011, shortly after the Rev. Canon Judy Rois took over as executive director of the AFC. In search of new ideas for charitable giving, Rois had conversations via Skype with children across the country. “I believe that kids are inherently philanthropic and quite generous,” she said, “without all the barnacles one gets into adulthood where you get kind of cynical about giving.” Rois asked the children what sort of charitable causes they would choose to give their money to, and they responded, as she put it, with “a blast of ideas.” Eventually, the list was narrowed down to four specific causes: before-school breakfast programs, after-school homework coaching, choir and summer camp programs, and children’s hospice care.
Hope Bear was introduced soon after as the fund’s mascot, and has gone on to become quite popular. Thousands of bears have been ordered, said Rois, adding that the sheer volume of orders has been a surprise. The proceeds from the sales go directly to the Kids Helping Kids Fund, and are used in support of the four branches of giving identified in Rois’s cross-country conversations.
When asked why Hope Bear has met with such an enthusiastic reception, Rois said she believes the reason is its ability to appeal to all ages and all walks of life. Issues within the church can often weigh heavily upon people’s minds, she said, and the bears present an opportunity to do something lighthearted, fun and in support of a good cause. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rois has also seen firsthand the difference the bears can make in the much more serious situation of a child undergoing palliative care. “They become so attached to them,” said Rois, “and what we say is, no matter what happens to any of us, there’s hope in something-you can always hope in something.”
Ben Graves is an intern for the Anglican Journal.