A line of teddy bears sit in the window of a home along Rucker Avenue on April 3 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A line of teddy bears sit in the window of a home along Rucker Avenue on April 3 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Bear hunts and encouraging words are signs of COVID-19 times

Neighbors are putting stuffed animals in windows so children can spot them during weeks out of school.

HOPE. Written with sidewalk chalk in colorful block letters, that’s the word pedestrians see along 13th Street near Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Colby Campus. Along with teddy bears in windows, displays honoring doctors and nurses, and other signs of encouragement, that message of hope is a visible way people are reaching out as the coronavirus crisis keeps us apart.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in our lifetime,” said Valerie Rusch, whose north Everett home now has a big Winnie the Pooh bear sitting in the front window.

In what The New York Times described Friday as “a scavenger hunt suited for social distancing,” stuffed bears and other plush toys are greeting passersby in neighborhoods around the world. The idea is for children, home during school closures, to spot as many bears as possible while out walking or going on drives with their families.

The fun is apparently inspired by the children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. The article published Friday features Iowa bear counters Tammy Buman, 12, and her 8-year-old sister, Addy, whose mother Julia Buman started a Facebook group, “Going on a Bear Hunt a Teddy Bear Hunt that is!!!!”

Rusch, 66, learned about bears in windows from her nephew, who lives in Bellevue. Now, two of her five grown daughters have bears on display, one in a motor home in Issaquah, the other in Everett — and that stuffed critter has a ukulele.

A sign with the phrase, “thank u dr’s nurses and first responders” sits on display in a window of a home along 15th Street on Friday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A sign with the phrase, “thank u dr’s nurses and first responders” sits on display in a window of a home along 15th Street on Friday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“It’s just kind of spread,” said Rusch, whose Pooh bear once belonged to her youngest daughter. “Everybody has to get out, and this was a good way to do that,” she said of the bear scavenger hunts.

At least nine little bears are lined up in the front window of Dennis and Joy Schaffert’s north Everett home.

“They’re from my husband’s collection,” Joy Schaffert said. He had a basket of bears given to him through the years, but the window sitters don’t include his own childhood teddy — which he still has.

From the late 1970s, for 17 years, Dennis Schaffert was director of pastoral care at what was then General Hospital of Everett, later Providence. Their daughter works at the Providence Pavilion for Women & Children, in the labor and delivery department, Joy Schaffert said.

As they think of health care workers during this perilous time, the Schafferts enjoy the reactions of children to their clan of teddy bears. “A family of five walked by. We could hear them counting and laughing — they found a lot of bears at one stop,” Joy Schaffert said.

Paper hearts and a sign that says, “thank you nurses” are affixed to in a window of a home on Rucker Avenue in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Paper hearts and a sign that says, “thank you nurses” are affixed to in a window of a home on Rucker Avenue in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Hospital workers and first responders are being remembered in many displays. With a health professional in their family, Ardie and Gary McLean greet north Everett neighbors with paper hearts in their front window and a “Thank You Nurses” sign.

“Thank U Drs Nurses and First Responders” says another homemade sign, at the home of Mel and Becky Urbanozo, near Providence’s Colby Campus. Becky Urbanoza said her daughters, ages 7 and 10, helped create the cardboard sign. “I have a cousin who’s a police officer,” she added.

Urbanozo also praised the sidewalk chalk art, including that big HOPE image, created across from the hospital by families with students at nearby Whittier Elementary — which like every school statewide is closed.

On Hoyt Avenue, an Uncle Sam yard figure holds an American flag and signs saying, “Thank You Essential Workers Stay Safe!”

A wooden sign thanking essential workers sits in the front yard of a home along Hoyt Avenue on Friday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A wooden sign thanking essential workers sits in the front yard of a home along Hoyt Avenue on Friday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Businesses, too, are sharing encouraging words related to the coronavirus situation. “Stay Safe Everett” is on reader boards along Broadway, one at the north end of the arterial at Greenshields Industrial Supply. ”This Too Shall Pass” is on a big sign outside the closed General Car Wash on Evergreen Way.

And in Snohomish, gift shop owner Haley Spain and her husband, Ethan Spain, are providing other businesses with vinyl signs bearing sentiments meant to inspire: “It’s Gonna Be okay,” “Don’t Worry be happy,” “Wish It Believe It and it will be so” and “have a little faith This Too Shall Pass” are just some of the messages on more than 30 businesses the Spains have provided with free signs.

“It’s not advertisement,” said Haley Spain, 32, who took over the Haley’s Cottage shop last year after the death of her mother. The late Cindy Sullivan ran business named after her daughter for about 25 years. By midday Tuesday, Spain said, they’d put up 29 signs and were planning to give out at least eight more.

“We have a lot of time on our hands,” she said. “We might as well be positive.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Ethan Spain finishes putting a temporary vinyl on Fred’s Rivertown Ale House window with the phrase, “we’ve got this #snohomishstrong” on Friday in Snohomish. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ethan Spain finishes putting a temporary vinyl on Fred’s Rivertown Ale House window with the phrase, “we’ve got this #snohomishstrong” on Friday in Snohomish. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sidewalk chalk contest

Everett’s Schack Art Center has launched a sidewalk chalk art contest. Entrants are asked to email a photo (suggested size 1-2 MB) and the art center will create an online gallery. Categories: best kid art ages 0-12; ages 13 to 19; adults 19 and older; and most joyful expression (any age). Winners will receive gift cards and/or other items (after the Gallery Store reopens).

Send email with photo of art to apowell@schack.org with “chalk art contest” in subject line. Include entrant’s name (first name only is OK) and age or category. By entering, you agree to allow Schack Art Center to publish photo online and use for social media and marketing. Entries limited to two per family. Deadline April 10, announcement of winners April 14.

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