This is a year that has included many of the events of years past, but they look different. Like the Saskatoon Blades‘ teddy bear toss game.
Normally fans attended the game (with their bears in bags), waiting for the home team to score so they could launch them onto the ice. Blades players and arena staff would then gather them up and eventually they would be donated to charitable organizations who would then get them to families in need over the holidays.
This year, people drove to SaskTel Centre and participated in a drive-thru edition of the teddy bear toss. Driving up to an inflatable rink and tossing them over the boards for a future donation.
In the end, more than 1,300 bears were donated to the Salvation Army’s annual toy drive.
“We started this year on Nov. 16 so we could maintain COVID protocols and have been handing out 232 a day, six days a week since Nov.16,” Saskatoon Salvation Army director Matthew Hoeft said.
The Blades then took the bears and handed them off to one of their partners in the event, WINMAR, so they could be cleaned and made safe to hand out to kids over the holidays and into the future.
“We loaded up all the teddy bears in one of our trucks, for a weekend spa at our shop,” WINMAR general manager Kelly Rapko said. “We gave them a nice warm bath, fluffed them up in the dryer and gave them a light misting of botanical disinfectant and then bagged them up and brought them over here.”
Moving forward, some of the bears will still be handed out this week and into the new year as the city’s less fortunate visit the Salvation Army.
“I think it’s the little things. It is being able to give toys to the kids on Christmas Day,” Hoeft said.
“It is being able to provide a Christmas meal. It is small but it means a lot for families. We can ban together for other causes, and we don’t want to forget about all the other things that are going on in the city. So I am quite proud to be a part of it.”