October 25, 2021

Families hunt stuffed animals to teach, entertain children amid virus

An activity ‘filled’ with fun

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Ashley Martin, left, hunts teddy bears with her kids, 11-year-old Micah, 8-year-old Abigail and 3-year-old Lizzie (in father Peter Martin’s arms) on Tuesday on Jewett Avenue in Cortland. Neighbors have been putting stuffed animals in the windows to give kids something to hunt as families walk for exercise.

It’s amazing what game you can bag when you’re hunting for teddy bears.

Eleven-year-old Micah Martin caught a squirrel perched upside down on a tree trunk across Jewett Avenue in Cortland from where he was standing. Eight-year-old Abigail kept finding Clara, the family cat, which was following them down the street. And 3-year-old Lizzie? She bagged an easy ride in the arms of her father, Peter Martin.

The Martins, including mother Ashley, were strolling Jewett Avenue tracking teddy bears, tigers and any stuffed animal they could hunt without a license. Neighbors in Cortland and Groton have taken to putting stuffed animals in the windows — a pair of Tiggers (and Tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made of rubber; their bottoms are made out of springs.) – were looking out from windows just down Jewett street in Cortland.

It’s a good way to keep kids motivated on a family walk, part physical education class and about the only familyouting available with social distancing, Ashley Martin said.

She said the idea to try to get neighbors to do it came from a Facebook post a friend shared. From there, she shared the activity on several community pages.

“I was kind of looking for a way to feel like we’re still a part of the community,” she said. “We can walk around our community, but we can’t really visit with our neighbors. It’s a really great way for people to feel more connected.”

It caught on, too, with people posting on a social networking app called Nextdoor of where and what stuffed animal they were placing for kids to find.

“The response on Nextdoor was amazing,” she said.

Christiana Mikitiuk, who lives on West Main Street in the city of Cortland, got involved after seeing the Cortland Youth Bureau share it on its social media page. She liked it so much she kept sharing it.
“We have a small yellow bear with a red T-shirt in our window,” she said, noting some of her neighbors are participating, too.

She said this is an activity anyone can participate in.

“My kids and I have been out for multiple bear hunts, they love it,” she said. “It gives them such a nice break to get out of the house. It’s devastating to them they can’t play in the park, so bear hunting is fun. They would definitely enjoy it more if more bears were put out!”

A separate community page was started for people in Groton to post about their teddy bears and other stuffed animals. Groton board member Betty Conger lives on Washington Avenue.

“My whole house is red, white and blue, so of course my bears would be,” she said.

The bears even have patriotic names — Liberty and Freedom.

“This is just a way for people to see I’m still here and if they need anything they can get a hold of me,” she said. “This is my heart and home.”

At 12 Jewett Ave., the Martins stopped. Peter glanced at his cell phone; Ashley quirked an eye toward the porch. There, staring out at them, was a giant brown bear; Abigail saw it first, or maybe Micah. Didn’t matter. They caught it.

Then Micah found Clara under a shrub and suggested telling a story with it. “Micah,” Ashley Martin said. “I think you’re obsessed with tail with a tale.”