Junior Brianna Barlow puts a stuffed animal in the box. These toys will be distributed on December 20th. Photo by Shelby Hayes.

Every morning students get on the school bus and greet their bus driver, but on December 20th elementary students will get more than just a polite greeting as a response. The transportation department arranged for many elementary school students to receive a gift of a teddy bear on their last day of school before winter break. 

“This idea has been on my heart for the last two years of being a bus driver in Prince George,” bus driver Ida Butler said. “There are so many stories out there. There are family situations we don’t even know, but I thought what if this was the only gift a child got for Christmas, or what if a child that gets a lot of gifts takes their bear and ‘pays it forward’ there are so many lessons we could be teaching and the main one is ‘kindness’. Our drivers work in the community and we love to serve our community,” bus driver Ida Butler said. 

The goal was to collect enough bears to give all of the elementary students who ride the bus a bear. 

“Transportation [hoped] to collect enough bears for all the elementary students that ride a bus, we estimated  between 3500 – 4000,” Butler said. “Although this is a large number, even one bear will make a difference.” 

Teachers in the high school wanted to help with the donation process. Career and Technical Education teacher Christopher Powell had some of his students decorate a box as a designated donation bin. 

“I hoped to get as many donations as possible to make sure children all have a gift before Winter Break,” Powell said. 

Many members of the community wanted to make sure elementary aged bus riders receive a gift before their break, and were eager to donate new teddy bears.

“I have seen positive feedback, my director has told me that he has heard people in our community talk about this campaign project everywhere he goes,” Butler said. “The businesses in our community are allowing us to put donation boxes there so that people can drop a bear off. This bear drive has encouraged others to take a moment to support the students and drivers.” 

Students at the high school also helped with the collection of the bears as well as by donating. Junior Brianna Barlow assisted with decorating the collection box that was in B-Wing.

“I decorated the donation box, I wanted to make sure it was nice and pretty, so that people felt led to donate,” Barlow said. “I also reposted the posts from the Prince George’s social media pages, and I have been telling my friends to donate.” 

For many the chance to donate was a way to get in the holiday spirit. Barlow saw Bears for Buses as a chance to help in her community.

“I think that Bears for Buses makes kids feel like a special impact from their bus driver, with a gift of a teddy bear before break,” Barlow said. “I was excited to go shopping and pick out bears that I know will make an impact in our community.”

Students see their bus drivers many times a week, the Bears for Buses project allows them to make a more personal connection. Without knowing if a child will have a gift or not at home, transportation department tried to make sure they had at least one from their bus driver. 

“This program was started by myself and Director Dustin Nase to bring our drivers closer to the students and the community,” Butler said. “We are just trying to do our small part with uplifting those we care so much about.”