Jean Bowden, a volunteer knitter and generous community member, is the knitter behind the colourful scarves worn by the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre’s teddy bear, Otis The Bear. Submitted photo

OSNS wants you to Smile With Otis

Otis the Bear Campaign challenges businesses in Penticton to help raise awareness

Heroes don’t always wear capes. Take Jean Bowden for example; a volunteer knitter and generous community member who is making a big difference.

Bowden is the knitter behind the colourful scarves worn by the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre’s teddy bear, Otis The Bear.

The OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre decided earlier this year to develop a teddy bear program to give children a distinctive stuffy toy — one that provides comfort and a link between their home and the programs they attend. Otis the Bear was born.

Related: NHL’ers donation makes playspace possible at OSNS

Otis is the mascot of the OSNS and represents love, care and compassion.

“But, we wanted more,” said Manisha Willms, executive director of the OSNS in a press release. “We wanted each Otis to have a distinct scarf that would individualize the bear for each child. We are so lucky to have found Jean.”

Bowden was connected to the centre through the Penticton Hospital Gift Shop where she volunteers with the Penticton Hospital Auxiliary to knit items like blankets, clothing, baby caps for new-borns and dishcloths for sale. There have been many women who have contributed their knitting for the Penticton Hospital Gift Shop and nearly all the yarn used to make the items is donated.

“Knitting is a dying art popular amongst the older generation. Many families of the elders who have passed on have donated their family member’s leftover yarn to the gift shop” said Bowden.

People donate the yarn from loved ones. Bowden turns that yarn into a scarf for a little bear. The little bear gives comfort to a child. Life has a lot of circles and this is a particularly beautiful one.

Related: Video – Sensory cave at OSNS brightens lives

Bowden learned how to knit at age four from her grandmother and has been an avid knitter ever since. Over the years she has volunteered her skills to many non-profits; the hospital, the Red Cross, Critteraid, Meals on Wheels and now the OSNS.

“You have to give back. I do it because it makes me feel good and it keeps me busy. Everyone should give back.”

Each scarf bears an embroidered OSNS logo and a button. No scarf is like the other. They are all unique with different colours of yarn and buttons.

“I use big buttons so that the children can practice taking the scarf on and off,” said Bowden.

When asked specifically why she has given so much of her time to helping this initiative Bowden replied, “I would like to see these bears raise funds and awareness for the centre.”

Related: Video: Dining at 10,000 feet to help OSNS

The OSNS has launched an Otis the Bear Campaign this fall hoping to do just that. Businesses are challenged to borrow an Otis — take pictures of him in their workplace to raise awareness for the OSNS. Look for pictures of Otis on social media with the hashtag #smilewithotis. The winning picture will be featured on Shaw Channel 11 TV on Nov. 18 (the date of the annual Shaw Share a Smile Telethon). All funds raised during the telethon will go directly to the centre and its critical paediatric services in the South Okanagan.

If you would like to make a donation of yarn or buttons to the Penticton Hospital Auxiliary you can do so to the Penticton Hospital Gift Shop.

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