SCHERERVILLE | Teddy bears have become a universal symbol of comfort for children traumatized by events in their lives.
Gretchen Pishkur, a fourth-grade teacher at Watson Elementary School in Schererville, said that truth occurred to her Saturday as she watched news coverage of the massacre of children, staff and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Now the 30-year veteran teacher wants to help deliver 600 teddy bears to surviving students when they eventually return to classes.
“We are collecting the teddy bears within a fast time frame. We want to collect them through the rest of this week and ship them out next week,” Pishkur said.
The teddy bears should be 8 inches tall or smaller so they can be kept at school on the children’s desks, she said.
“The children can hug the teddy bears when they need comfort, but we don’t want to interfere with the educational process,” Pishkur said, adding most classrooms won’t have room to store larger teddy bears.
Collection boxes for teddy bear donations are located between the front doors of Watson Elementary, 333 W. 77th Ave. That permits people to donate the toys without having to enter the school, she said.
Pishkur is also enlisting the help of her husband, Dave Pishkur, who is alumni director at Andrean High School in Merrillville.
“We want to find an Andrean alumnus in Hoboken, N.J., who can be a contact person in the area,” she said.
Pishkur said she will probably ship the teddy bears to the Newtown Public School District administration building rather than any specific school.
According to news reports, Sandy Hook Elementary will remain closed and a protected crime scene for months. Children who attended that school will remain at home until classrooms in a vacant middle school in nearby Monroe are readied for them. The date for that hasn’t been decided, according to news reports.
“I really hope they decide to raze that school and put in a beautiful park there,” Pishkur said.