Authentic Florida’s Charity Spotlight: Bears Who Care

September 9th is National Teddy Bear Day!


Bears Who Care is a 100% volunteer, 501 C3 Charitable Organization based in Central Florida.

For its third annual OctoBEARFest 5K Fun Run, the Orlando-based charity, Bears Who Care is hosting a virtual version of the event! The event runs from October 18 – 31, 2020. 


We recently sat down with Kari Schmitz who co-founded Bears Who Care. We were able to get more insights about her organization and this year’s unique annual event.  Here’s what she shared with us:


What is the inspiration behind Bears Who Care?


My husband, Tad, and I are very entrepreneurial by nature. We wanted to channel that into giving back to others.  We were also inspired by Tad’s folks, as they run a very successful charity in IL.  My parents were educators (my mother was a reading specialist), and Tad’s grandfather’s name is Teddy. We decided to combine two ways to bring comfort to children:  teddy bears and books.  We officially started Bears Who Care 12 years ago with just 50 teddy bears and 50 books. It has grown it organically to where we’ve distributed teddy bears and books to over 20,000 children through schools, hospitals, churches, and more.



Why did you start a 5K fun run?


We’ve had a few successful private fundraising events hosted in the evenings with primarily adults.  Now that we have a daughter, we decided to change our approach and create an event that is family-focused, encourages health (we are a “running” family), and gives us a way to embrace our community. We now invite people from all over the world to participate in the fun.  OktoBEARFest is based on an annual party we used to have at our home to celebrate our German heritage, so why not bring it back to life in a major way and invite everyone?


Kari Reading


Has anything surprised you about planning an annual 5K event?


Fortunately, I have a cousin who hosts his own 5K in Virginia Beach, so he gave us a solid understanding of all that is involved.  With this type of event – even one that’s virtual – there are lots of details to manage. We’ve quickly had to learn how to divide and conquer and delegate, since we can’t do everything ourselves.  Volunteers are critical to the success of everything we do, whether it’s OktoBEARfest, doing distributions at school, and spreading the word about the organization. We are very grateful for them!

One of the surprises this year is making sure people understand what a virtual event is, as the concept is still pretty new.  Basically, you are getting the same “goodies” you usually get with a 5K, like the finisher medal, t-shirt, and goody bag. You complete the distance at your own pace and whatever location you want – your neighborhood, a treadmill, etc.  Best of all, a significant portion of your registration fee goes directly to Bears Who Care and helps provide new teddy bears and books to disadvantaged children.

BWC Photo Tad with Kids


What should the participants expect?


First and foremost, everyone can have a great time, no matter where you are!  One of our sponsors created a “how-to” video, which explains 7 easy steps to participate5K participants ($30 fee) will receive a finisher’s medal, OktoBEARfest t-shirt, goody bag, and also a certificate (shipping is available).  There’s also a 1K run for children ($15 fee), which gives them a finisher medal and goody bag. You can also add an official Bears Who Care teddy bear, Bailey, to your registration, which will in turn provide teddy bears and books to three children.  You must register by October 4 to receive all of your items.


Register for the OktoBEARfest Fun Run

Follow the Bears Who Care Facebook Page for the latest updates

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