Bikers raise funds for teddy bears, children

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Question: How many Buddy Bears does it take to rescue one child lost in the woods?

Answer: Just one.

More questions.

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How many Buddy Bears does it take to reassure a little girl everything will be all right as she watches her father taken away in handcuffs and her mother crying?

How many Buddy Bears does it take to console a little boy holding his father's hand, while watching their home burn?

How many indeed? No matter what the scenario, the correct answer is one furry teddy bear wearing an ABATE T-shirt.

That's all. It takes just one Buddy Bear to begin the healing process. In times of stress and anxiety, danger even, something to hold onto counts.

Brian Lovik knows.

The veteran Austin firefighter said, "It's a great thing, these Buddy Bears. Whenever a child is involved in an emergency and their world is falling apart, they need something to hold onto. The Buddy Bear is it."

Lovik and Rick Christiansen, engineers in the Austin Fire Department, were on duty Saturday afternoon, when members of the Narrows chapter of the American Bikers Awareness, Training and Education visited.

The crackle of motorcycle exhausts announced their arrival at the fire department.

Rusty Engel, president of the Austin-Albert Lea area Narrows chapter, led the delegation, which included children as well as adults.

According to Engel, they were distributing Buddy Bears to the local fire department as well as Gold Cross Ambulance Service, Drug Abuse Resistance Education units in the Austin Police and Mower County Sheriff's departments, Mapleview Fire Department and later Saturday, Emmons Fire Department.

Also receiving Buddy Bears this year will be the Mower County chapter of the American Red Cross at a later date, according to Engel.

"We're happy to be able to do this for children who suffer in emergencies," said Engel,

With 25 ABATE chapters in Minnesota alone, the Buddy Bears community service project generates a lot of good publicity for bikers, who still must battle stereotypical images that aren't always flattering.

According to Narrows member Sandy Bates, "It's a great community service project that generates new awareness wherever we go and this helps change the image of bikers."

Lynn Huston, public relations chairman of the Narrows chapter, said the Buddy Bears project is done by the chapter for the chapter. "We raise the

money with our fund-raisers throughout the year and earn most of it at one big fund-raiser coming up this fall," he said.

That fall fund-raiser is scheduled Saturday, Nov. 2, at Echo Lanes bowling alley in Austin.

There will be a band in the Twister Lounge, silent auction, a "jail" for bail activity to raise more money and bowling. The details will be announced later.

Members were asked how many Buddy Bears they have distributed in the nine-year history of the state organization and the five-year history of the Narrows chapter's involvement.

Numbers were bandied about until finally the members agreed the figure state-wide must be over 2,500 Buddy Bears place din the hands of children scared, frightened and in need of a true friend, real or imagined..

"That's just great," said Lovik. "We keep them in the fire trucks so they're available wherever we go."

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at