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Residents band together to make being homebound 'bearable'
Activity cheers children, adults in midst of pandemic
bear hunt townsend
Susan Townsend and son Browning, 6, were two of the participants in the recent "bear hunt" in the Lennox Hills neighborhood. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

They’re hunting for bears over in Lennox Hills.

Since local children are home because schools are closed due to the pandemic, parents all over Bulloch County are scrambling to find ways to not only occupy their children’s time, but also to stimulate their minds and educate them at home. 

For Susan Townsend, this includes lots of time spent reading to her 6-year-old son. Since he’s an only child, she said she and her husband realized that current circumstances would be difficult for him, as he wouldn’t be seeing his friends at home in their neighborhood, or at school.

“We knew that social distancing was going to be hard for him, because we live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, and we knew he wasn’t going to be able to go on his regular playdates,” she said. 

So as she looked for activities for him, she stumbled across a post on a Facebook educational activities page that suggested reading the book, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” It also suggested that parents could work together to have their neighborhood participate in a bear hunt after reading it.

So Townsend posted on the neighborhood Facebook page for Lennox Hills that they should all try this activity. 

“Everybody said, ‘OK, when?’” she said. “I said, How about now? We’re not doing anything.”

So people all over the small neighborhood began putting stuffed bears in their windows, and as the children ventured out into the neighborhood, sometimes multiple times a day, they would count the bears.

“We all went for a walk,” Townsend said, “one at a time, and looked for the bears in the windows. The first time out, we counted four bears. The second time around, that afternoon, there were more than 30.”

The “hunt” was so successful, in fact, that another neighbor suggested a second hunt, but with hearts, to “send love to the world.”

So people made hearts from construction paper, and some recycled Valentine’s Day decorations, and hearts began to appear in the windows with the bears. Neighborhood kids began hunting hearts on March 25. 

They are planning to hunt for Easter eggs later on, Townsend said, if social distancing is still in place. 

Townsend says there have been roughly 12 to 15 kids participating in the hunt, and it’s not restricted to the younger children. Households that don’t even have children are participating by placing bears and hearts, and middle and high school students are often seen out in the afternoons “hunting.”

“It’s kept us busy and I’ve been very grateful for the activities that keep us busy,” she said. 

Being at home with her child has been good, Townsend said. She’s worked at finding ways to keep him occupied, and he doesn’t know there’s a crisis happening around him.

“He doesn’t necessarily know the doom of everything that’s going on. He doesn’t know the sadness of people getting sick. All he knows is that he’s at home with Mom and that Mom is trying to keep him busy,” she said. 

Other neighborhoods in Bulloch County are picking up on the idea, and bears are appearing all over Sylvania and Metter as well.

A Facebook post, hashtagged #randomactsofcommunity, has challenged social media users to participate so that children can hunt for bears. Communities around the nation are participating in the event, which allows families to have some fun while practicing social distancing. 

In Bulloch County, residents have placed bears in the windows of homes in Westover, Hazelwood, Grove Lakes, Old Indian Trail and Iron Gate subdivisions, and in Brooklet, as well as in homes on Merrywood Drive, Northlake Road and Sandy Way. More are being added daily, but at press time, no organized events have been created. Local children are simply invited to "hunt" for bears with their families by car or by going for a walk.

cabrals
Zac Cabral, 7, and Lucy Cabral, 4, use binoculars for their bear hunt.
Hagler and Mizeski
Allison Hagler and Brielle Mizeski point to bears in the window of a home in Lennox Hills.
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