SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — For many children a teddy bear is more just a toy. It’s a soft, furry friend – a confidant, bringing solace to a child who is lonely or hurting in some way.
That comfort is something of a familiar to Samantha Grier. For the past 32 years, the psychiatric social worker has distributed 200,000 bears for free, as part of her nonprofit Caring for Children.
Just in the last year, Caring for Children completed bear distribution to Syrian refugees in Jordan, and impoverished families in Mexico.
In all of her travels around the world, Grier says she has seen firsthand how the bears have soothed kids facing all types of trauma, everything from abuse and neglect to the ravages of war.
“I’m interested in making the child happy, more fulfilled, more able to cope with their difficult circumstances,” said Grier.
But Grier has also shared her teddy bears locally. Recently, at Compass Family Services in San Francisco, Grier shared the free bears and smiles of dozens of children as each selected a teddy bear of their own. Squeals of delight could be heard throughout the facility’s playground as the kids embraced their new furry friends.
It was a sight that also warmed the heart of Compass Family Service spokesman Stacy Webb, who pointed out that many of the kids his organization serves are homeless or in extreme poverty.
“Having something that is consistent with them all the time is important,” explained Webb. “A lot of our kids don’t see the same person very often for very long.”
Teddy bears have long represented comfort for Grier as well. As a child, she says she felt alone as her parents worked long hours to build their business. An older relative gave Grier a teddy bear to ease her loneliness.
Grier says that small, yet profound gesture, changed her life. “My parents, for economic and other reasons, were really not available,” she said. “My teddy bear was my friend and I was very comforted by it.”
Today, Grier has made it her life’s mission to put teddy bears into the hands of as many children as she can. She has trained teachers, police and parents on how they, too, can use the bears to calm anxious hearts.
Through it all, Grier has had one simple message: “What I’m trying to do one child at a time is make the world a better place.”
Caring for Children is having a benefit dinner on November 11, 2017. The dinner will be held at Rigolo Restaurant in San Francisco, and will take place from 7:30pm-9:30pm. The organization hopes to raise money for a planned free teddy bear distribution to Syrian refugee children in Greece.