Stuffed teddy bears overrun collection points

Monday, September 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Truckloads of stuffed teddy bears were scheduled to pull out of Oklahoma City Monday bound for public school children affected by terrorist attacks.

More than 40,000 of the bears have been donated across Oklahoma following attacks that toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and damaged the Pentagon in the Washington, D.C.-area.

The stuffed animals have become known in Oklahoma as ``Hope Bears'' and were a symbol of healing following the carnage of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The bombing killed 168 people including 19 children.

The stuffed bears were called into duty again following the terrorist attacks to help cover the heartaches left behind by terrorists, campaign organizers said.

On Sunday, volunteers carefully packed the Hope Bears with notes into boxes and moving trucks.

``We've got more bears than we can handle right now,'' said Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial executive director. ``We can't handle any more.''

Volunteers stopped taking the bears at midnight Saturday at various locations, including two Oklahoma City fire stations and Oklahoma State University.

``People came from all over the state with the bears,'' Watkins said.

Watkins said watching the families and survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing giving Hope Bears for the east coast attacks stirred emotions.

``This is certainly very inspiring. They understand the pain. It is certainly very real.''

Watkins said six moving trucks, each 24 feet long and donated by U-Haul, were filled with packed boxes of Hope Bears Sunday. Two more moving trucks were expected to be filled.

They will transfer the Hope Bears into tractor-trailers handled by Hahn Trucking of Oklahoma City.

The bears will be dropped off at school districts and distributed to children in New York, New Jersey, Arlington, Va. and Washington.