The annual Northwest Savings Bank and WGAL Teddy Bear Toss Night happened Sunday evening at Giant Center, where the Hershey Bears hosted the Syracuse Crunch.
The crowd of 9,042 waited through most of the first period, including a five-on-three Hershey power play, until their captain, Garrett Mitchell, scored an unassisted goal with 4:58 left in the period. At that point, the fans littered the ice with stuffed teddy bears.
This year’s event once again benefited various local charities and organizations. According to WGAL’s Janellle Stelson, who addressed the Giant Center crowd, some of this year’s groups include the Ronald McDonald House, the Boys and Girls Club of Harrisburg, the PA Army National Guard, and the Children’s Miracle Network.
Kate Severs of the Children’s Miracle Network was on hand for her second event and praised the Bears for their community service involvement, particularly in regard to this event.
“We have about 300 families who are signed up to be involved with CMN,” Severs said. “Last year I can tell you there were over 18,000 bears, which was a record.”
While all of the fans await Hershey’s first goal from their seats, the volunteers organize off the ice and wait for the horn to jump into action. Bears are piled on the ice and placed into large bags or hauled off the ice if they are too large to fit into bags. Volunteers then skate the bags to the zamboni entrance where several large bins await.
“When they score, the bins go down to the ice,” Severs said. “The bears get thrown into the bins and are then sorted by small, medium, large and extra large. We have two recorders keeping track of how many bears there are and they get bagged and tagged and put into trucks.”
Severs loaded some of the bears into a truck Sunday evening.
“We collect a certain amount of bears to give to our kids at our annual party,” she explained.
One of the Children’s Miracle Network families was in attendance at the game and spoke to the crowd between the first and second periods.
ChloeAnn McCoy, her two sisters and brother were on the ice as their mother, Lisa, explained how the Children’s Miracle Network has been important in their lives.
“She went down to the OR at three days old,” Lisa said, explaining that ChloeAnn had to have open-heart surgery. “She was fine there and came back upstairs and within probably 45 minutes to an hour they had to reopen her and have another heart surgery and they lost her for over an hour.”
Now a high school freshman at Northern Lebanon, ChloeAnn has not let that stop her.
“She’s very active as much as she can be,” Lisa said. “She’s second in the state for gymnastics for Special Olympics.”
Even though she is doing well, Lisa said that her daughter will be on the radar for a heart-and-lung transplant in her 20s. But on this night, the teenager, who is a huge Bears fan, was very excited to be on the ice and close to her favorite Bear, Liam O’Brien.
Severs praised the family for their involvement with the Children’s Miracle Network, saying, “They have been excellent ambassadors for us. We have groups who request CMN to send a family, so they can share their story and that family has been wonderful. We’re so glad they can join us tonight at the Bears game because I know they are hockey fans.”
The Children’s Miracle Network serves South Central Pennsylvania at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
This year’s final count was 20,662 bears, which is a record for the Hershey Bears.
After the game, Mitchell, who said it was the first time in his career that he scored the Teddy Bear Toss goal, said, “We had fun with it. It’s obviously for a great cause, 20,000-plus I think I heard, so that’s obviously pretty special.”