What’s more fun than Christmas shopping for yourself? Christmas shopping for kids who are in the Adopt-A-Bear program!
The Adopt-A-Bear program was started on Ambergris Caye, Belize in 2014. It is sponsored by Raise Me Up and it gives residents and visitors alike an opportunity to buy gifts for children whose parents are not able to do so. This program was founded by Brittney O’Daniel, the owner of the Sandbar Hostel and Restaurant in San Pedro. The purpose of the Adopt-A-Bear program is to bring Christmas joy to the less fortunate children on the island and in the King’s Home orphanage in Belmopan.
How does the program work? Bears are labeled with each child’s name, age, and gender along with three gifts that they would like: something they need, an educational item, and something they really want. The bears are hung on Christmas Trees located at various locations around Ambergris Caye. This year the bears were located at Sandbar San Pedro, Crazy Canucks Beach Bar, Marbucks Coffee House, Palapa Bar and Grill, The Truck Stop, and Hidden Treasure.
Adopting a bear is a very simple 3 step process:
- Take the bears you want off of the tree
- Shop until you drop
- Return the toys to the same location you got the bear
This year there were several other owners at Grand Caribe who wanted to participate which meant we were able to adopt 10 bears!
Here we are at Sandbar San Pedro with our 10 bears!
There were over 350 bears who were up for adoption this year. Unfortunately, not all of the bears were adopted and some new children were added at the last minute, so a group of 4 elves (us included) flew to the city to finish all of the shopping.
On our way to the airport on our big shopping day, we stopped at Flight Cafe for some tasty cappuccinos.
We met at Maya for our 10:00 flight to the city and Dee handed us our very organized shopping lists.
There were over 100 kids we would be shopping for today!
Love Maya Island Air’s new planes!
With our hands full of bears and our wallets full of cash, we boarded our Maya flight and headed over to Belize City.
Great views as always on the flight from San Pedro to Belize City.
When we landed, our driver Rene was there waiting for us. And, we were off!
First stop, Courts.
This stop wasn’t for our Adopt-A-Bear shopping. The San Pedro Food Bank was in need of a few items, so we stopped in to pick them out.
A new refrigerator
And a couple of crock pots were on the list for them.
Our next stop was Brodies. Time to start shopping for the bears!
Dee was very organized – she was in charge of picking out the girl toys, Britney was in charge of picking out clothes, and we were in charge of picking out the toys for the boys.
Ronnie found these awesome Star Wars toys –
Here’s Lisa with about 70% of the toys for the boys.
Britney was super excited to shop for clothes for 100 kids!
We had 4 shopping carts filled to the top.
They gave us a 10% discount since we bought so much. Thanks, Brodies!
Wow, that’s a long receipt!
All of the goodies barely fit into the car. But we all managed to squeeze in with some creative stacking and seating arrangements.
After our 1 1/2 hours of shopping in Brodies, it was time to refuel with Chinese food at Chon Saan.
We devoured our onion pancakes, pork dumplings and this delicious pile of lettuce wraps.
Now we were ready to tackle part two of our shopping day!
Time was going by too fast and we had a 5:30 flight to catch, so it was time to divide and conquer. Dee and Britney went to Mirab to shop for more toys and clothes and we went to Simon Quan to buy all of the gift bags, wrapping paper, scissors, tape, water balloons, soccer balls and basketballs.
Simon Quon was packed with people!
Even though it was packed, the employees were so helpful.
We had to buy 300 gift bags – 300! But when we asked for help, the employees immediately went to the back and brought the 300 bags to the cashier for us.
Here are all of our purchases from Simon Quan….waiting on the sidewalk for Rene to pick us up.
We made one last stop at another Brodies to buy the remaining clothing and toy items on our list.
Whew! That was a lot of shopping but it sure was fun! It’s a lot harder than you think to select and buy so many toys and clothes!
We had time before our flight back home to celebrate our shopping success with ice cold (ok, pretty cold) Belikins!
Thank you, Maya Island Air for your generosity!
Maya’s generosity allowed us to do even more than we planned which meant more gifts for more kids and more smiles! We appreciate your support of the Adopt-A-Bear program!
Back on the island, it was time to drop off all of the gifts and help finish with the gift wrapping.
There were people working at Hope Haven all day sorting and wrapping and organizing so when we arrived, there were only a couple of hours of work left.
How long does it take to sort and wrap over 350 presents? A long, long time!
Hope Haven was filled with Christmas presents. Every table and square foot of floor space was covered!
Here is Britney checking the lists twice to be sure no children were missed.
With all of the gifts purchased and wrapped (with one day to spare), they were ready to be distributed at the Lions Den.
Families started showing up at Lions Den at 10:00. They were all excited to see Santa and get their presents.
Santa Clause called Ronnie and asked him to be his elf for the day. How could he say no to that request?
With Santa and his elf in position, it was time to start handing out the presents.
Yes, Santa Clause does were flip-flops when he’s on an island.
All of the presents just waiting to be opened!
Everyone waited patiently for their visit with Santa.
Santa Clause gave every child their present and they got their pictures taken by Karen Brodie, our island photographer extraordinaire.
How sweet is this big brother?
High-five for Christmas!
We wonder, what did Joe Chung ask Santa for Christmas???
There were so many smiles and so much laughter. Not just from the kids, but from the families and volunteers too.
Some kids opened their presents while others waited until they got home.
This boy’s mom asked him not to open his gift….he didn’t open it, but he kept sneaking peaks!
Once he saw what was inside (Paw Patrol toys) he was so happy!
All of the boys who requested basketballs immediately opened them and began playing with them.
We are so blessed to be part of this selfless island community and thankful that we could take part in the Adopt-A-Bear program in such a big way this year.
We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope that everyone’s holiday season was as magical as ours.