Bear Hugs

Many first responders in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, carry teddy bears in their vehicles to give to children affected by such emergencies as house fires or car wrecks. These stuffed animals comfort the children, says Ann Atkins, a Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church Dadeville in Dadeville, Alabama.

“The first thing that child does when they see a teddy bear is take hold of the bear and love it,” explains Atkins. “It will comfort a child during a stressful situation. It distracts the child from what is going on around them.”

With an average weekend attendance of about 250 people, First Baptist Dadeville, along with other area churches, has participated for 20 years in the local Teddy Bear Ministry by collecting stuffed animals to provide to first responders. According to Atkins, the Baptist Church Association’s Woman’s Missionary Union undertakes this effort, but she wanted the Sunday school class she teaches to play an active role in the ministry. 

The 10 children in her class, who are in grades 4–6, urged family members and friends to buy stuffed animals from a teddy bear wholesaler. They also collected a little money in Sunday school to buy bears by practicing acts of kindness, showing up to class on time, and memorizing Bible verses, among other activities. 

In the end, the students were able to present nearly 100 new teddy bears to Dadeville police officers.

“Then the police officers shared about a particular situation when they were able to give a bear to a child that was in a stressful situation,” Atkins recounts.

Until their participation in the ministry, the children had never thought about how such a small thing like a stuffed animal could help a child in distress, she adds. Hearing from the police officers has motivated the class to collect even more teddy bears next year.

“It’s a big blessing to be able to see something as simple as a teddy bear go to such a heartwarming experience,” Atkins adds.

Nadra Kareem Nittle
Nadra Kareem

Nadra Kareem Nittle has written for Outreach magazine since 2009. She has written about faith and other issues for a number of publications and websites, including the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education,'s Race Relations website,, PRISM magazine and the Inland Valley Times. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles.