Bears Who Care - Comfort for children in need
Most people who start charities do so because of a particular passion, such as a love for animals, or because their lives have been touched by tragedy or illness. They want to save others some of the grief they've endured themselves. Tad and Kari Schmitz, of Celebration, started with the urge to simply make a difference. Then they set about figuring out how. Kari's parents had been teachers with a passion for reading. Tad's father ran his own charity in a small town in Illinois. Both Kari, 43, and Tad, 41, had spent time volunteering for the non-profit Give Kids The World, which gives all-expenses-paid vacations in Orlando to critically ill children and their families. After a lot of research on existing charities and long talks with some of the people who started them, they settled on giving teddy bears and books to children ages 1 to 12 who are sick, poor or otherwise in need. The books would spread literacy; the bears would offer comfort.
They call it Bears Who Care.
Their first effort was a donation of 50 bears and books to young patients at Florida Hospital for Children on June 15, International Children's Day. "We started on a very small scale," Kari said, using their own money and contributions from friends. "But it turned out to be everything we imagined it would," she said. "It just gives the children an escape from all the needles and discomfort." Because both of them work demanding jobs in marketing - he for a large hotel company, she for a theme park - they can devote only three to
six hours a week to the charity. In recent months, their focus has been on incorporating and getting the all-important IRS designation that allows donations to be tax-deductible. They considered doing the paperwork on their own, but in the end hired a faith-based accounting firm that specializes in the process. The fee was about $500, Kari said. "We never assumed it would be easy," she said, "but still I don't think we realized how involved it really was."