By Kathy Chouteau
Richmond’s Galileo Club offered a warm & fuzzy welcome Thursday, Dec. 6, when “Hug-a-Bear Holiday Dinner” guests gathered for the event’s 23rd annual edition.
Hosted by the Santa Fe Neighborhood Council, the seasonal dinner asks attendees to bring stuffed bears to donate to Richmond’s first responders for use in comforting local children experiencing crises.
According to an email sent out by event organizer and Neighborhood Council member Linda Whitmore, “Children are sometimes caught up in traumatic events. Our first responders find them at life’s most difficult moments; the Hug-a-Bear offers comfort to these vulnerable young people.”
The major highlight of the evening was the presentation of the bears, when approximately 100 attendees took turns at the microphone introducing their furry friends, including bear names and back-stories. Potato, Chompers, Boo-Boo, Jimmy-Bear, Snuggles, Sky, Quan and Cashmere all made star appearances, as did Super Bunny—who was, frankly, not a bear at all—but was clearly equally cuddly.
A jolly Santa Claus—better known as Jerrold Hatchett, an officer of the Neighborhood Council—then collected the bears in a big sack. Other Neighborhood Council helper-elves who made the evening go off without a hitch that night included Vernon Whitmore, Daryl Henline and the aforementioned Linda Whitmore—to name a few.
During the event, keynote speaker Sgt. Chris Tong of the Richmond Police Department shared stories of how the annual event’s donated bears have been used to comfort local children who are caught in the crosshairs of tragic situations. “They make a huge impact in a positive way,” he said of the bears.
While guests enjoyed their choice of prime rib, roasted chicken or eggplant parmesan for dinner, raffles were held for goodies donated by Richmond businesses including: Le Chat Nails, Aunt Snazzy Gourmet Cookies, Grumpy Goats Farm, California Delicious, Nobilis Restaurant, Anaviv’s Table and International Fire Equipment.
Bridge Storage and ArtSpace, whose owner—Jeff Wright—was in attendance, was highlighted as a special sponsor of the evening. Richmond City Councilmembers Ada Recinos, Eduardo Martinez and Jael Myrick were also seen supporting the event, as were numerous officers from the Richmond Police Department.
Toward the end of the evening, the Neighborhood Council also took time to present a check for $500 to representatives from Nystrom Elementary’s After-School Program.
Anyone wishing to support the Santa Fe Neighborhood Council’s charitable efforts can learn more here.