Apr 25, 2024 - News

Teddy Bear Camp introduces kids to historic sites

A covered bridge with stuffed animals sitting in front of it

Photo: Courtesy of Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Pack your bags, plushies. It's time for Teddy Bear Camp.

Why it matters: The Indiana Department of Natural Resources' historic preservation and archaeology division's annual "sleepaway" camp for stuffed animals introduces children and families to some of the state's historic sites, while also helping them adjust to the idea of overnight summer camp, director of engagement Danielle Kauffmann told Axios.

Driving the news: In its fourth year, the camp starts next month for stuffed animals (not just teddy bears!) belonging to children ages 5-12 in Marion, Hamilton, Hancock, Shelby, Johnson, Morgan, Hendricks or Boone counties.

  • Staff take the plush toys to historic sites and pose them for photos that get posted on Facebook each day.

How it works: Drop off a completed registration form with your stuffed animal at one of the program's drop-off sites.

  • The Indiana State Museum: 10am to 2pm May 13 and 2-5pm May 14.
  • The Hancock County Public Library: 11am to 3pm May 13.
  • The Mooresville Public Library: 11am to 3pm May 14.
  • Pickup will be two weeks later, at the same locations.

By the numbers: Last year, there were 81 plush participants, double the participation of the first years.

  • They visit more than a dozen locations, which in previous years have included the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Conner Prairie.

The fine print: While staffers ask that families not send anything too fragile or priceless, the department understands they're being entrusted with precious members of the family.

  • "It's always stressful to get the headcount right," Kauffman said. "We want to make sure we don't leave anyone behind."

What they're saying: Sarah Graham's son, Ross, sent a special stuffed animal to camp last year.

  • Randy Bear, as he's known, was a gift from Sarah's uncle Randy, who died just before Ross' second birthday.
  • He was wearing a blue buffalo check sweater, which was Uncle Randy's signature style.
  • Sending Randy Bear to camp has been like having an adventure with Uncle Randy, Graham said.
  • "Every day I'd log in and they'd post where they were at," she said. "We'd search through the photos to find Randy Bear."
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