This past holiday season, the fourth graders of West New York No. 4 School’s “Spirit Team” did their part to bring joy to children who were spending the holidays in local area hospitals. They donated brand new teddy bears to North Jersey’s annual “Bear Hugs for the Holidays” program.
“This is the second year that we were doing this; the School Spirit Team is always looking for community projects,” said Hugh Perry, advisor and fourth grade teacher.
West New York No. 4’s “Spirit Team” is comprised of about 15 exceptional students from Odalys Cribeiro’s and Hugh Perry’s fourth grade classes.
“It’s a wonderful experience for myself and for the kids just to be a part of it,” said Cribeiro.
Originally, about four or five years ago, the “School Spirit” team started out as a Student Council. It eventually evolved into a more school and community-oriented program, which included the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. This year, however, the concentration has been placed on the fourth grade class.
“This is the crème of the crop,” said Perry. “They are picked [to join the Spirit Team] based on their classwork, responsibility, and willingness to help.”
“We became part of the group because we wanted to help people, and it makes me feel wonderful inside,” said Julieta Quintero, 9.
In addition to the Bear Hugs for the Holidays, the School Spirit Team is also working on a celebration for the 100th anniversary of Public School No. 4.
“Our purpose is to do things for the school and the community,” said Perry. “This year we collected food for the soldiers in Iraq.”
Bear Hugs for the Holidays, which was inspired by the column entitled “Inspirations” in The Record, is a community service program begun by the North Jersey Media Group Foundation in 1998 to collect new teddy bears and give them to patients spending the holidays in North Jersey hospitals.
Perry, who had first come upon the ad for the program two years ago, felt it was an appropriate project for the School Spirit Team, and received the approval of Principal Bernard Abbadezza.
“[The students] are at an impressionable age, and if we can instill in them the [significance] of giving and generosity, it will follow them throughout their lives,” said Perry. “School is not just about tests; it teaches children about life and about helping others.”
With the efforts put forth not only the students, but also the faculty and staff, the community of West New York School No. 4 managed to collect over 50 bears to deliver to the program, which had a goal of 28,000 for the year.
“It’s a good feeling; I’ve been teaching here for 35 years and the kids always come through,” said Perry. “We collected as many as we could get, and The Record tags and boxes them [for distribution].”
Hug a bear
“We donated these bears for the kids who were not going to be with their families, so they could [at least] hug a bear on Christmas Day,” said Natalie Carvajal, 9.
In addition to contributions from area schools, Bear Hugs for the Holidays starts off with a donation of hundreds of bears from Russ Berrie & Company, Inc., and additional donations come from individuals, service organizations, religious institutions, and businesses.
In the program’s first year, they collected 3,900 teddy bears for all the hospitals in a five-county region. The 2005 Bear Hugs for the Holidays campaign began on Nov. 11 and ran until Dec. 31.
Some of the Hudson County’s hospitals and agencies that received teddy bears this year, included Jersey City’s Children’s Hospital of Hudson County, Christ Hospital, Family Assistance Center, Greenville Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, and the Jersey City Medical Center; as well as Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken, and the West Hudson Division of Clara Maas Medical Center in Kearny.
For more information on Bear Hugs for the Holiday visit www.northjerseybearhugs.org.