Teddy Bears hit the streets
The 35th-annual Teddy Bear Parade brought out the little kid in hundreds young and old this past weekend.
Hosted by the Soroptimist International of Gresham, the parade, which loops through downtown Gresham, featured colorful floats, marching bands, martial arts, animals and much more. Organizers estimate there were more than 1,900 participants marching, with almost as many lining the streets to watch.
"Soroptimist International of Gresham gives a heartfelt thank you for 35 years of community support in the Teddy Bear Parade," said Connie Philibert, Soroptimist president. "It is because of the generous sponsors, the many volunteers and our dedicated Soroptimist members that we have made this event so successful."
While the parade is focused on fun, everything helps support the good causes of the Soroptimists. Every year the group comes up with a more ambitious fundraising goal, and once again they have exceeded expectations. The support of 36 sponsors — with both Weston Kia and Mt. Hood Community College serving as important partners, as well as individual donations — raised more than $25,000.
That money will be used to support scholarships, mentorship programs and career training for young women and girls.
"We are thrilled by the Teddy Bear Parade," said former Soroptimist president June Jacobs. "This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and it is always a fun and exciting time for the entire community."
The festivities began the night before with the unveiling of "Teddy," a bronze sculpture of a teddy bear sitting on a bench at the corner of Main Avenue and Third Street. The new 3-foot piece was made possible through a collaboration between the Gresham Soroptimists, the Bemis family, and Gresham Outdoor Public Art.
"I grew up in this community, and when I think about who we are, it's the Teddy Bear Parade," said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. "We wanted to give back, so we are honored to be a part of this."
"Teddy," made by Troutdale artist Chad Caswell, was put in place to honor the parade's 35th anniversary. The sculpture has already become a popular photo spot for families.
"It's a great thing to be a part of Gresham and see my art here," Caswell said. "I'm excited to be able to bring my family and sit next to the teddy bear."
The Soroptimists is a global volunteer network of women in 130 countries and territories that works to improve the lives of women and girls. Celebrating its 40-year anniversary this year, the local group spearheads events throughout the year, such as the Teddy Bear Parade, to support the community.
Through the years, the Gresham Soroptimists have raised more than $150,000 in scholarships for young women and more than $175,000 to support various community nonprofit groups.
"With (generous) support, we have been able to help women in our community bring to life their dreams of a brighter future supporting their family," Philibert said.