Dinner collects furry friends for kids in crisis

The Santa Fe Neighborhood Council’s Hug-a-Bear Holiday Dinner will take place Thursday Dec. 5, at the Galileo Club, 371 South 23rd St., Richmond. (Photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

When life brings the unexpected, sometimes all we need is someone to hug. An upcoming dinner hosted by Richmond’s Santa Fe Neighborhood Council—and operating under this premise—will collect teddy bears from attendees to give to local children to help comfort them when facing traumatic events.

Now in its 24th year, the Santa Fe Neighborhood Council’s Hug-a-Bear Holiday Dinner will take place Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Galileo Club, 371 South 23rd St. in Richmond. A no host bar will open at 6 p.m., followed by dinner from 7-9 p.m. and mingling, holiday music and dancing from 9-10 p.m.

Dinner attendees are asked to bring a bear to donate to the neighborhood council’s annual effort that distributes huggable bears to Richmond’s first responders for use in comforting children experiencing crises.

A portion of the event’s ticket proceeds will support special programs at Nystrom Elementary School.

The evening’s pinnacle is the presentation of the bears, during which attendees take turns introducing their furry fellows to everyone, including its name and back-story. As this reporter has experienced firsthand in past years, attendees enjoy creating unique names and backgrounds for their respective bears.

Representatives from Richmond’s fire and police departments will be on hand to accept the bears for use in uplifting local children.

Linda Jackson-Whitmore, a Santa Fe Neighborhood Council member, told this reporter in the past that, per the first responders, “the children really, really love getting these bears to hold onto” and are “never too old” to receive a bear hug in their time of need.

“We’re trying to give back to the community by doing this dinner,” she explained at the time.

Past Hug-a-Bear Holiday Dinners have collected more than 1,000 bears to donate to Richmond’s first responders.

On the menu at this year’s dinner will be a choice of prime rib, roast chicken or eggplant parmesan. Tickets are $50 per person and those interested should RSVP ASAP. For more info, contact Linda Jackson-Whitmore at [email protected] or 510-236-8386.