By Lisa Addison
Fallon and Sam Witherwax, like many locals, had been practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak but after a week or so of it, their children were feeling cooped up so they loaded everybody up in their car and went hunting for bears.
Well, sort of.
"I saw someone ask on Facebook about where the good bear-hunting spots were and I thought, ‘What the heck?' " Fallon Witherwax said with a laugh.
She looked into the matter further and found that a few neighborhoods were putting stuffed animals, including bears and others in the windows of their homes, and it would give children some entertainment when families drove by to look.
"We started in Highland Meadows off of Lake Street and there were tons of bears," she said. "The kids would scream for each one!"
She and her husband have three children — Blayze, 9, Felicity, 6, and Stryker, 2.
"We're trying to make as much fun as possible out of a terrible situation (COVID-19)," she said. "We just hope we're making memories and staying safe and healthy while doing so."
The busy mom reached out to friends and family who also began putting stuffed animals and signs in their windows so their kids could see them.
"My sister, the kids' Aunt Nikki, was ready at her house after waiting for us to drive by," she said. "We hadn't been able to see her in over a week. Her husband is a doctor and they are pretty much quarantining themselves as much as possible."
Whether it's putting stuffed animals in a window, posting signs with uplifting messages in yards, or putting messages on driveways, many in the area are finding ways to lift the spirits of others in these trying times.
In the Buccaneer Acres neighborhood in south Lake Charles, three girls who are all friends drew inspirational chalk messages on 32 driveways in that area — the entire neighborhood.
"We decided to spread a little kindness in our neighborhood," said Paige Harkins-Caldwell whose daughter, Priscilla, was one of the girls, along with Abbie Snider and Katie Billedeaux.
Some of the messages they wrote with colorful chalk read: "Stay strong in tough times!"; "We're all in this together!"; and "Make every day a great day!"
Bear being found in Jennings, also
By Doris Maricle
Five-year-old Karleigh Hulsey couldn't have a regular birthday party with her friends this year, but she spent the day driving around Jennings with her younger sisters, mother and grandmother trying to spot as many bears as she could.
"I think it's neat because the kids don't have to stay at home," grandmother Pauline Bourne said. "It lets the kids know you can get out and still have fun without seeing your friends."
She said the children had fun waving at people, singing the bear hunt song and counting bears during their two-hour drive around the city. They're already planning a second trip to see the bears which have been added.
Karleigh said her favorite thing about the day was looking at the bears and trying to find them.
Her younger sister, Adalyn, 3, said her favorite thing was the bears.
The idea for the bear hunt scavenger game was inspired by a book and song for preschoolers called "We're Going on a Bear Hunt."
Teacher Mandy Segura and friends Vickie Mack and JoAnne "Joey" Chapman got the idea to start the bear hunt after seeing a social media post about another city putting teddy bears and pictures of rainbows in the windows so children and their parents could have a scavenger hunt on their walks and rides.
Segura said the response has been great with more than 200 teddy bears, tigers, Easter bunnies, monkeys and other stuffed animals of all shapes, sizes and colors popping up on porches and in windows all over the parish.
"People started calling and saying how much fun the kids were having and how they really enjoyed it because they wanted something thing to do with the kids," she said.
Jeff Davis Parish residents can post pictures of bears on display, along with the addresses for families to find the bears on Segura's Facebook page. The page is updated each day.
Mack said the bear hunt is a way to entertain and keep kids active during a time of social distancing and school closures.
"I think this sends a great message to the kids that life goes on and you can still have fun in different ways," Mack, a stay-at-home-Mom, said. "Instead of laying around with thew walls closing in, they can get out of their homes, go explore and still have fun and see things while practicing social distancing."
Chapman, an emergency room nurse, said the bear hunts are a much needed distraction for children during a time of such uncertainty and a reminder that there is still some good in the world.
"As an ER nurse I see a lot of people, especially children who are scared and afraid," she said. "We don't want them to be that way. We want them to be cautious, but to know they can use this time to have some fun and spend some quality time with their parents."