With National Volunteer Week (April 12-18) right around the corner, the Children’s Aid Foundation is taking a moment to reflect on the contributions made by our incredible volunteers. Though often out of sight, these people donate their time to the Foundation in so many different ways including at events, in preparation for events, along with many other behind-the-scenes tasks. Without their support, our work would simply not be possible.
Sharon Edwards, a teddy bear designer and founder of Bear Hugs, is a seasoned volunteer for the Foundation’s annual Teddy Bear Affair, annually handcrafting and donating customized teddies to the black-tie event. “I was [initially] asked by a friend to contribute to the affair,” says Sharon. “We heard about it our teddy bear club and I thought it was a great way to use my artistry to give back.”
Working for the ministry of social services, Sharon saw firsthand the varying issues and challenges faced by kids in the child welfare system. “Our ministry funded the four [child welfare agencies] and was involved in the adoption of Crown wards, as well as [supporting] young offenders,” says Sharon. “It opened my eyes.”
Having an innate interest in collecting teddy bears, Sharon says that when she moved to a new community she acted on the opportunity to learn how to make teddies instead of paying exorbitant amounts to purchase the custom-made ones she desired. “I wanted to meet people so I stopped by a quilt store to take a class and meet people who were also interested in sewing,” she says. “They offered teddy bear classes, so I signed-up for them.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Attending the Children’s Aid Foundation Gala: Teddy Bear Affair, Sharon has thoroughly enjoyed participating in the evening’s extravagance and “bearing”witness to the guests’ responses to the teddy bears, which they can also bid on.
She has also had the opportunity to meet scholarship recipients, an experience that she says “puts a face to the program and makes it all worthwhile.”
Citing the Jack Sparrow teddy bear as her favourite of the ones she’s made for the Teddy Bear Affair, Sharon says that the bear took over 20 hours to make and was an experience to let her creativity run wild.
“I like the chance to make a difference, if even only a small one,” says Sharon. “I really think the Foundation has amazing programs. We do not know how lucky we are; some children do not have the same opportunities. A good education can make a world difference to getting a great start in life and helps break the cycle.”