Hundreds of people in Bryan and College Station are putting stuffed bears and other animals in their windows and yards for children and families to find on their own bear hunt.
The Bryan-College Station “bear hunt” was inspired by the children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and similar activities in other locations, Cortney Wyatt said. To encourage others to participate, people across the country have started using the hashtag #inthistogether when sharing posts about their bear hunts.
Wyatt established the Facebook group “Kids bear hunt College Station and Bryan” on Saturday, and by Tuesday night it had 435 members.
“It feels wonderful knowing that this is helping families in our community,” she said.
Wyatt created the group, she said, after seeing the idea a few times on Facebook. She started by just inviting a few of her friends to join and to see how much interest there was.
“I never thought that it would take off like it had,” she said.
College Station mom Amanda Pustejovsky said the bear hunt gave her daughters, who are 10 and 7, a fun activity to do in the midst of so much uncertainty as both Bryan and College Station schools are closed through at least April 10. She noted one daughter dressed her bear in a Rapunzel outfit, while the other created a sign to put with the bear.
They have also gone on their own bear hunts through the Castlegate 2 neighborhood.
“It’s just a good activity that gets people outdoors and moving,” she said, noting they can still keep their recommended 6 feet of social distance also.
At first her daughters explored the bears on their street, Pustejovsky said, and the entire time were pointing out each bear or other stuffed animal they saw.
Then, as more houses were added to the Facebook group, they started exploring in the car, she said, calling it a field trip. With one daughter tallying the number of bears and the other counting the number of other animals they found, they ended up seeing 42 bears on their adventure in Castlegate 2 and Castle Rock.
As her daughters are adjusting to not going to school or seeing their friends, she said, “It just brought me a lot of joy and filled my heart with happiness that, even in this crazy there was happiness and they had smiles on their faces. it was a good time.”
Kyle McVay, who lives in Bryan, also took her children on a bear hunt in their neighborhood in Carter Creek and Briargate. She took each of the Bryan addresses listed in the Facebook group and put them into Google Maps.
“We just drove around and looked for bears,” she said. “We have 9-year-old twins and an autistic adult child, and they’ve been really enjoyed looking for the bears. And we have two older kids, and they enjoy putting bears all over the house.”
She was surprised to find that her older children, who are 14 and 16, wanted to participate.
“It’s been really fun, and it gives us something to do too, just when we’re going someplace and there’s nothing else to do right now,” she said.
McVay, who is an assistant athletic director with Aggieland Homeschools, said homeschooled students are also looking for things to do because although they typically have school at home, their other activities with fellow homeschool students have been canceled.
“I really appreciate the lady that started it and the community for participating, especially people that don’t have kids, you know, going out of their way,” she said. “… I really appreciate people — just everybody, kids, no kids, grandmas, grandpas, college students, whatever — participating to give the kids something that’s fun to do.”
She said it just shows the community spirit, noting she also shared the project to the Next Door page for her neighborhood to get more people involved who might not be on Facebook.
Both McVay and Pustejovsky said it is an easy thing to do and brings a lot of fun and happiness to the children.
“It’s good to see people pulling together in a time of need, and hopefully everything will flatten this curve, and we’ll be able to get back to some normalcy soon,” Pustejovsky said.
In addition to starting the Facebook group, Wyatt said, she has also gotten to take her children on bear hunts and has seen some houses that have made cutouts and signs to greet families.
“My daughter has also enjoyed it even when we can’t go for walks because of our little one, we still can drive around and hunt for them and we loved it,” she said. “I know other families yesterday waved and said hello from the other side of the street and even the car while we were on our hunt. When that happened all I could do was smile.”
Wyatt said she has suggested transitioning the bear hunt in April to an Easter theme, so neighborhoods can have community Easter egg hunts even if the traditional events are canceled due to the threat of COVID-19.