CLUTE

T he rebranding of Junior Service League’s Teddy Bear Carnival was dubbed a success after it welcomed more guests, increased exposure and will benefit more children through Blue Santa programs than in previous years.

The Teddy Bear Carnival, previously known as the Teddy Bear Tea, took place Sunday at Clute Municipal Park. The city donated the park and its recreation center in case it rained, event chair Nicole Larson said, but the weather turned out to be perfect.

“We wanted to make it more inclusive for all children,” Larson said.

The park allows more room for children to run and play than the Lake Jackson Civic Center ballroom they’ve used in previous years, event co-chair Brittany Figaro said. Sunday’s event included carnival games, gymnastics and dance performances, bubble machines, sno-cones, popcorn and more.

Junior Service League focuses on serving women and children in the community, Larson said. This year, the Teddy Bear Carnival encouraged attendees to bring new toys that will be donated to the Clute and Freeport police Blue Santa programs, she said. There were 187 children who attended and they collected 175 toys, Larson said.

About $1,000 of financial proceeds also will go to the programs, Larson said. Raising Cane’s participated and donated a portion of its proceeds to the program, she said, adding she is working with more companies to get donations behind the scenes.

Clute Police Blue Santa uses recommendations from schools to reach children who might fall through the cracks during the holiday season, Property Clerk Shanna Lobpries said.

“We’re small, but we do what we can,” she said.

The program helps make this time of year less stressful for families, Lobpries said. Last year, they helped about 25 families with 60 children, she said.

Freeport Community Resource Officer Angela Cantrell said its Blue Santa program is a way to give back to the community by providing holiday meals, stockings, pajamas and gifts.

“It’s important to our department because we help families who are less fortunate,” Cantrell said. “Every little bit helps.”

Last year, Freeport helped more than 100 families with about 600 kids, she said.

Lloyd and Aretta Lawson came from Champion Forest in North Houston and picked up four grandkids, who live in Clute and Holiday Lakes, to attend Sunday’s carnival, they said.

Aretta Lawson explained to her grandchildren why they brought new toys to donate rather than keep, she said.

“I thought it was kind and helpful for people to give to the children who don’t get Christmas help to get presents this year,” 12-year-old Matthew Stockman said.

The event can help children understand that everyone faces a different situation, Larson said. About 9 percent of Brazoria County residents are under the poverty line, she said, and that could affect their friends at school.

Aretta Lawson used the opportunity to teach the young ones, but is still a giving grandmother at heart, she said.

“They said, ‘Oh OK, cool. Then you’ll take us shopping, right?’” Aretta Lawson said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Well, maybe.’”

Grandchild Marleigh Pool, 10, said her favorite part of Sunday was touring an ambulance.

“I think it’s pretty fun,” she said.

Multiple attendees, including Barbara Schoppe of Lake Jackson and Lynn Barbee of Surfside Beach, said they had never been to the Teddy Bear Tea before, but saw the Teddy Bear Carnival online and thought it’d be perfect for the kids in their lives.

“I used to bring my kids to stuff like this when they were little and now I’m bringing my grandkids,” Aretta Lawson said.

Junior Service League member Heather Stansel helped organize the event in hopes of helping the community and getting the organization’s name out, she said.

“It really opened it up so everybody can see what we’re doing,” Stansel said.

Maddy McCarty is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0151.

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