Mount Olive Kiwanis Club Comforts Children with the ‘Caring with Bears’ Project

By Henry M. Holden

The Kiwanis Club of Mount Olive Township recently donated 50 “trauma bears” to the Flanders Fire Company & Rescue Squad as part of the club’s ongoing “Caring with Bears” project. The stuffed animals are donated periodically to local fire, local first responders, EMS, police and local hospitals to provide those children involved in traumatic or emergency situations some comfort. Some of the past recipients include the Budd Lake Rescue Squad, the Mount Olive Police Department, Hackettstown Regional Medical Center, and St. Claire’s Hospital in Denville.

The idea came from long-time Kiwanis member Carl Jablonski who talked about creating a program to help children in traumatic situations.  Whether it be a hospital stay, police situation or other crisis, the Kiwanis Club comfort bears have proven to be helpful. Project Chair, and 18-year Kiwanis member, Kelly Moore, knows firsthand the feeling of being a child, nervous and alone in a hospital.

“I started the program about six years ago. I have Cerebral Palsy and when I was a child my parents were unable to be with me at the hospital all of the time.”

At a young age, Kelly required frequent hospital stays and wished she had a bear as a source of comfort when her parents could not be with her in the hospital. This experience prompted Kelly to create the ‘Caring with Bears’ project, which has provided over 300 comfort bears to children in and around the Mount Olive area.

“After speaking with Carl (Jablonski) we came up with the bear project because we thought it would comfort children in trauma situations. Whatever they were dealing with they should have the bear in hand. With this idea I felt we could help children and it was helping me deal with that situation also because when I was a child I kind of wished that I had a bear when I was in the hospital by myself.”

The situations could include going for an ambulance ride or if the child or children must stay in the hospital longer than expected.

“When we applied to the hospitals, they said the bear had to be allergy-free and safe. There is no inappropriate range or age for the bear. We just do it for the children in the hospital. We have other members of the Kiwanis Club who help us distribute the bears to the children.”

“Technically, Kelly chairs the project, but we’ve had multiple people donating by buying sponsorships,” said Richard J. Moore, Jr., a 1995 founding member of the Mount Olive club.

“I am one of the original charter members, and so far, the Kiwanis Club has given out 300 bears. We do it 50 at a time to the other organizations who ask for them. We don’t give the Bears to the children ourselves, we are two steps removed from the experience. We reach out to the first aid squad for example and we give them a box of 50 bears. Flanders Fire Company and Rescue Squad has distributed 100 bears in two donations of 50 bears each.”

The gift of a bear can make a big impact in a child’s life. Sponsoring a bear costs only $12.00 while providing comfort to a child during a difficult time. To sponsor a bear, please make a check payable to: The Kiwanis Club of Mount Olive Township, P.O. Box 621, Budd Lake, NJ 07828 or contact Kelly Moore at or (201) 841–7783 or the website

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