The creator of Bears on Barrington is thrilled her polar bears have raised funds for UGM despite an unexpected setback.
Vinora Bennett has been raising money for Union Gospel Mission since she started sculpting polar bears in her front yard this year. During that time she raised roughly $2,000 from people simply walking by her house.
The non-profit organization that helps people facing homelessness loved her initiative so much they asked if she would sculpt a polar bear for them on the UGM property.
"They asked me to build a bear in front of their building on the corner of Higgins and Princess. I was delighted to do it," says Bennett.
On January 30, 2021, she started packing snow and sculpting around 10:00 am. The labour of love took her roughly five hours to complete. She sculpted a mother bear standing over its cub.
"We had a bunch of visitors come by and make donations. At the same time, there were a bunch of visitors at my house giving donations. We raised about $1,500 that day," she says.
Sculpting polar bears out of snow started off as a way to stay mentally healthy, but it has become so much more.
"Just the emotional reaction from people. You never know how you're going to impact somebody else with an act of kindness. That's what it's been. I would have never guessed that I would have put so many smiles on people's faces."
After feeling good from completing another sculpture, Bennett was told something happened to her bears.
"I did hear the next day that somebody had vandalized the bears," says Bennett.
Someone beheaded the mother bear sculpture and there was coffee poured onto the baby bear not even 24 hours after Bennett created it.
"Before I started I knew there was always a chance that somebody would come and vandalize the bears and I'm okay with that. So many people have enjoyed it so far, that if they were gone tomorrow, it still would have been worth it."
The good news is that this is the first negative reaction Bennett has had since she started her Bears on Barrington, according to her.
"It's been nothing but positive reactions. This whole thing has been extremely positive and we can't expect everything to be perfect," she says.
UGM has responded with a blog post on their website as well from the incident, including the comment below.
"In all this, love reigns supreme. Whoever destroyed this work is loved and prayed for. Whatever forces of evil come against us serve to remind us that Jesus faced even stronger contempt, even more hate and incredible pain out of love for each one of us."
People still wanting to donate to UGM can still do so online or in person.