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Bond Head Women's Institute sends toys, books to northern First Nations community

The Bond Head Women's Institute has been making Bear, Book and Blanket packages for the past four years, with the items mainly going to local first responders in Bradford West Gwillimbury and around Simcoe County

The Teddy Bear and Quincy Book project has evolved since it was first launched by the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario (FWIO) back in 2005.

That’s when FWIO held a Children’s Storybook Competition and published the winning entry, Quincy and his Quilt: a Northern Adventure, written by women's institute members Loreen Ambler and Debbie Thompson Wilson.

Each branch of women’s institutes received a copy of the book, with the request they add a teddy bear and a cozy blanket, and give the package to a child who was ill, experiencing trauma, or who was in need of cheering up.

The idea was that by comforting and reading to the toy bear, the child would also be comforted.

Women’s institutes have continued to put together Quincy Project Bear, Book and Blanket packages, delivering them to hospitals and first responders, including paramedics, fire and police, to be given to kids at the scene of emergencies.

Not only teddy bears but a wide range of stuffed animals now make their way into the packages, and instead of Quincy and His Quilt, members donate a variety of popular books for all ages. The small blankets, also donated, range from store bought to handmade.

The Bond Head Women's Institute has been making Bear, Book and Blanket packages for the past four years, securing each in a plastic zip lock bag, to keep the contents safe from the elements, and tying each one with blue and gold ribbons, the colours of the women’s institute.

In past years, the packages have gone to organizations that included the local fire department in Bradford West Gwillimbury, South Simcoe Police, and Simcoe County paramedics. This year, they’ll be heading farther afield – north to Kingfisher Lake, located 486 kilometres north of Kenora between Lake Superior and Hudson Bay, where Bond Head Women's Institute member Mikki Nanowski’s son, John Paul, is currently stationed as a police officer. 

It was Nanowski’s idea to send the packages north to provide comfort to kids in remote communities.

John Paul Nanowski is a member of the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, which serves 35 First Nations communities in the remote region. He'll be picking up the donations back in Bradford on his time off, and taking them north with him when he heads back to his posting.

The Bond Head Women’s Institute members hoped to put together 60 of the packages – but they recently set up an assembly line in the kitchen of member Grace Elliott, and packed 75 bags, each with a teddy bear or other stuffed animal, book, and blanket, and each one designed to bring a smile to a child.

Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
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