mikeandbears2_dec2009Looking at the fruits of Lisa Oldring’s labour, one might think her new job’s a little on the fluffy side.…
By Jennifer Smith

This article is from the December 2009 Issue of Forever Young

But one conversation with the woman behind the chbc good news bears and it’s pretty obvious, she does more than her fair share of labour.

Some 50 bears or so into her new job as the creator of the chbc good news bears and this mother says she loves the fact she can work from her livingroom and be a part of one of the beary funniest fundraising traditions in the interior of B.C.

“I can’t ever see stopping,” she said, when contacted, mid-work day to discuss her new business.

Started in 1989, the CHBC bears are local creations to which a person or company can lend their name by ordering a bear and seeing the animal outfitted to suit their own style.

“It’s all to raise money for our food banks,” explains television weatherman and CHBC personality Mike Roberts, who has been the driving force behind the bears for over 20 years.

Whenever a bear comes in, it’s Roberts job to use his time on the CHBC newscast  to give the bear its moment of glory, as the news team tries to drive the proceeds of the raffle up.

The efforts all started with bear makers don and rita munroe who created the first good news bear in 1989, raising some $800,000.

From there, the fundraiser started to roll along with the creation of four bears the next year and $13,000 for food banks throughout the Okanagan.

By the end of that decade some 173 bears had been made and the good news bears are narrowing in on $3 million this year, depending on how december fundraising goes.

A Governor General’s award winner for his community focus, Roberts said he is just happy to do his part, talking the bears up when they hit the stage and waiting for the cheques to roll in.

For Oldring, though, the entire effort has taken a little more work than she was expecting.

From sourcing materials to doing research on the internet, each outfit is created from scratch.

“You can’t really just buy the clothes because they usually don’t fit,” she explained.

And even when she knows she’s found a product that will work, there’s all the other products around it.

A lumber yard might purchase one of the $300 bears, for example, and she might find the coveralls on-line.

But from there, there’s the hard hat and the little beams of wood to throw over his shoulder and the company logo to think about.

The little logger might need a tool belt or dusting of sawdust or any number of extra touches and it’s all up to oldring to make it happen.

Of the $300 collected to build the bear, only about a third goes to the food bank; but for the hours she puts in, this sewing sensation says she’s yet to come anywhere near breaking even—though she’s hoping her little business might turn a profit by spring.

Oldring’s favorite bear thus far was created for a bank—HSBC to be precise.

“She has a little muff and she’s all dress in red,” she said, noting she’s supposed to look like she’s out sliding around a skating rink.

The bears have been known to show up dressed in sandals and summer attire like a sun dress or jeans and a t-shirt.

As for the fundraising, the real dollars are in the donations.

Once the bear is created, it makes its debut on local television where Roberts works his magic.

The finished bears go up for a raffle and the cheques start pouring in. Every cheque is made out to the food bank of the donor’s choice and photocopied to go in a draw.

This way chbc knows exactly how much the good news bears raise and the donations, however big or small, give the donor a chance to make a difference as they try to win the bear.

Cheques can be mailed in to 342 Leon ave., Kelowna, B.C. V1Y 6J2; and Roberts makes sure everyone understands the rules of play when he makes his pitch on the news.

And whether the bear shows up in chaps and a motorcycle jacket or a nurse’s uniform, each bear is given it’s moment.

The effort supports two dozen local food banks in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Shuswap and they’re about to reach a real milestone.

It’s all a pretty impressive feat for a program which reportedly started by accident.

That first bear arrived as a donation, shortly before Christmas in 1989 and was raffled off as a Christmas present.

In the years since, the good news bears have donned everything from fire fighters outfits to tough cop and service organization’s garb in an effort to feed local families.

And if the bears achieve that $3 million mark with an extra big haul this season, it will be a Beary Merry Christmas indeed.