Bear affair raises funds in Alaska

Women’s Auxiliary raises nearly $19,000 for local Salvation Army programs.

by Jenni Ragland – 

As the chill of winter threatened to bring the first snowfall to Anchorage, a warm spirit of generosity filled the Alaska Ballroom of the Anchorage Hilton Hotel at the 5th Annual Beary Victorian Tea. More than 200 teddy bears were auctioned, raising nearly $19,000 to benefit local Salvation Army programs.

Organized by the WAV (Women Achieving Vision) committee of the Women’s Auxiliary, the tea has become one of Anchorage’s favorite pre-winter events. This family friendly event provides a wonderful opportunity to get a head start on the holiday shopping, as many of the bears are accompanied by fabulous items, including fur coats, gift certificates, artwork, and toys.

Bears are “adopted” for dressing by members of the community, including many employees from two of Alaska’s largest banks. Before the tea, a group of celebrity judges are invited to vote for the “best of show” in each of the 10 categories. The top bears—as selected by the judges—are auctioned in the live auction by local NBC morning news anchor, Sheila Balistreri.

“The wonderfully creative thought put into dressing the bears has really developed as the popularity of this event continues to grow, resulting in absolutely amazing displays,” says Major Mariam Rudd, divisional director of women’s ministries.

Several of the more elaborate creations this year included a three-foot fabric Christmas tree adorned with 12 bears dressed in festive calico Christmas dresses and a giant-sized homemade bear dressed as an engineer riding on an Alaska Railroad engine handcrafted from Sitka spruce.

At the end of the day, every bear found a new home and all who attended enjoyed a “beary” fun afternoon lending their support to The Salvation Army.

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