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‘Teddy Bear Hunt' Unites Neighbors, From Afar, in Santee

The sweet, simple game – reportedly being played in neighborhoods across the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic – involves residents placing a teddy bear in their window for kids to spot while out on walks with their families

Leticia Speer

With little, plushy teddy bears and a whole lot of love, residents in San Diego's Santee community are finding a fun way to feel connected to one another – even if, right now, people have to stay apart.

The “Teddy Bear Hunt” is a scavenger hunt-style activity reportedly being played in neighborhoods across the U.S. during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The game is sweet and simple: residents place a teddy bear on a window sill, facing outward so it can be seen from the street. When kids are out on a neighborhood walk with their families – something still allowed under the current public health order in San Diego County – they can have fun looking for the stuffed animals as they get their exercise.

The Teddy Bear Hunt, which many believe is loosely inspired by the popular 1989 children’s picture book, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” has been making its rounds on social media.

In Santee in San Diego's East County, residents have been talking about the game on NextDoor – and playing it.

For many, it’s a way to give their neighbors a simple “hello” – a sign that things will be alright – and a way to spread some happiness during a trying time.

Santee resident Laura Villaros has a smiling, dark brown bear in her window at her home on Halberns Boulevard. She told NBC 7 she decided to join in on the activity because she has three kids at home.

“They really enjoy going on walks, since that’s the only thing we can leave the house for,” Villaros said. “Looking for bears around the neighborhood gets them excited and gives them a sense of ‘normal’ while we are stuck at home.”

Laura Villaros
A plushy bear sits in a window sill in Santee, as part of a game to unite neighbors, even when they're apart.

Like many parents, Villaros said she’s been trying to find ways to keep her kids entertained over the past few weeks. She likes the feeling of togetherness that a Teddy Bear Hunt brings.

“It definitely brings the community together,” she said. “It’s a way to show support for our neighbors and say we are doing OK."

Fellow Santee resident Ginny Fessler also has a brown teddy bear sitting in the window of her home on Galston Drive. She has it up there for the neighborhood kids, too.

“It’s giving the kids something fun to do,” Fessler told NBC 7. “I actually put a lion out to see if they would notice a difference. I figured it’s still safe, and it’s not bothering anybody.”

Fessler said a couple of her friends – including a neighbor on Galston Drive and another on Lozita Way – are also taking part in the game for similar reasons.

Ginny Fessler
The "Teddy Bear Hunt" is a simple, sweet game being played around neighborhoods all over the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic, including neighborhoods in Santee.

Over on Michala Place, Santee resident Leticia Speer has a black, white and red panda bear in her window sill. The plush is special; it belongs to her grandson.

It reminds Speer of her grandkids in a time when she can’t physically be with them.

“I took a picture and told my grandson about the Bear Hunt,” Speer told NBC 7. “I miss my grandkids so much and I know it’s difficult – for all of us – being away from each other, even though we live in the same town.”

Leticia Speer
A plushy bear sits in a window sill in Santee, as part of a game to unite neighbors, even when they're apart.

Speer, who heard about the game from a neighbor, said she decided to participate in the Teddy Bear Hunt to “give children a little distraction from the stressful times.”

“If I can brighten a child’s day and get them out in some safe, fresh air, then I'm all for doing it!” she added.

Villaros said her family hasn’t caught anyone looking at their bear yet, but she likes to think they’ve been part of the cause to spread some cheer around their neighborhood.

The Santee mom also said her family has spotted people around the neighborhood creating inspirational chalk art on the sidewalks.

“It’s awesome to see,” she added.

Ginny Fessler
The "Teddy Bear Hunt" is a simple, sweet game being played around neighborhoods all over the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic, including neighborhoods in Santee.

In addition to Santee, teddy bears have also been spotted in window sills in Mission Hills in San Diego's Uptown community.

NBC 7
Teddy bears sit in a window sill in Mission Hills. People all over the U.S. have started putting the stuffed animals in their windows as part of a neighborhood game to keep kids entertained during walks amid the pandemic.

Photos: Signs of the Coronavirus Impact in San Diego

Pitching in During the Pandemic: Stories of San Diegans Doing Good: Read more stories about San Diegans finding creative ways to lend support. Have you heard about a story we should share? Let us know

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