BEAVERCREEK, Ohio (WDTN) — A local family is continuing its efforts to donate hundreds of bears to patients at Dayton Children’s Hospital this year, but due to the pandemic, the program will be different.

Callista Hess and her family have been doing “Bears4Children’s” since 2008. They started it after Callista and her twin brother had to go to the hospital.

“A middle school group donated a stuffed monkey that he ended up with, and we just saw how that affected him,” says Callista.

From that kind gesture, “Bears4Children’s” was born, giving back to other patients.

“It’s such a great feeling because you know you’re doing good for someone else. And I’m definitely– it’s a privilege to be able to do this and give back like this and run something that is this big,” smiles Callista.

They started with a 12-bear donation in 2008, and it’s grown ever since, collecting nearly 600 bears in 2019. They’re hoping to reach a similar number this year with more time to donate. While they typically dedicate one day for people to go to Build-A-Bear and buy a bear for the hospital, that isn’t possible this year.

“It’s always very crowded in the store, and that can’t happen,” states Callista.

Instead, they are expanding the donation days. From Thanksgiving to December 22, anyone can stop by the Build-A-Bear at the Fairfield Commons Mall during store hours to donate.

“Anyone, any age can go and donate. We have a lot of little kids that this is their first time, kind of really realizing they’re doing something for someone else,” describes Callista. “It really does teach a good lesson and teaches them the importance of giving back and just taking care of each other at an early age. And it’s during the season, so why not just go out and do something nice?! Also especially this year–hospitals are not getting as many donations.”

Callista says the program wouldn’t be possible without community support.

“This really isn’t us. This is the community coming together. So that’s what we always stress, because in the past, we’ve had people like ‘oh this family donated all of these bears.’ But no. This is really the community,” credits Callista.

They’ll drop off the donated bears to Dayton Children’s on December 23.

To learn more about “Bears4Children’s” or to donate online, click here.