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Bear makes global trek for seniors

September 18, 2000

Bear makes global trek for seniors



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Traveling bearWILLIAMSPORT - He's a frequent flier with fur.

Williamsport Retirement Village's resident teddy bear has traveled to 10 U.S. states and seven foreign countries as part of an activities department initiative to link with the community, and generate fond memories and conversation among the nursing center's residents, said Activities Director Mike Guessford.

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Sam the traveling bear's red, white and blue sweater is dotted with pins from the many places that Williamsport Retirement Village staff members have taken him.

A hallway bulletin board holds a map marked with Sam's travel destinations and pictures and postcards from the bear's many trips.

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Sam and his travel momentos bring smiles and distant memories to residents, many of whom have Alzheimer's disease, during monthly birthday parties and resident council meetings, Guessford said.

"He's prompting them to think about memories they can still enjoy," said Beth Stull, public relations director at the retirement center.

"They really like it," Guessford added. "They enjoy seeing the different pins, the pictures, the postcards. They like the feel of his fur."

Sam kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, visited Big Ben and shopped at Harrod's department store in London, and sat on St. Andrew's golf course in Scotland the day before it closed for this year's British Open.

He cruised to St. Thomas and Puerto Rico. On New Year's Eve, he traveled back and forth between centuries when he flew across the international date line en route to Guam.

The bear has played the slots in Las Vegas, fished in Michigan, and toured Busch Gardens in Virginia.

Sam visited the Space Needle in Seattle the week before violence disrupted the World Trade Organization's summit in the city.

He was too busy to visit France with Stull's mother, she said, but Sam accompanied Stull, her husband and two other couples on their honeymoons.

"If only he could talk," Guessford chuckled.

The life of a jet-setter has been hard at times on the bear, who has been mended a few times after being stuffed in suitcases and carry-on bags, Stull said.

"When he's in the suitcase, he's hibernating," she said.

He'll continue to hibernate on upcoming trips to Hawaii and nursing homes across the country, where he'll have new travel experiences, Guessford said.

"It's been a lot of fun," Guessford said.

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