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The Learning Shop, in conjunction with Bears For Humanity, donated nearly 500 teddy bears to area police departments.

The bears, donated the week of Sept. 26, will be used to aid children and families in distress, according to a news release.  The bears have the potential to help calm a child in a crisis situation or to be offered as a gift of gratitude.

Bears For Humanity, based out of San Francisco, manufactures a plush line using only 100 percent organic materials and Global Fair Trade practices. The company also employs at-risk women who were formerly on welfare, according to Vijay Prathap, Chief Giver from Bears for Humanity and co-owner of the company, which he started with his wife in their garage.

Tom Merryfield of the Learning Shop said the company connected with Bears for Humanity at a trade show.  He said he chose to donate to local police departments because he wanted to be “fully supportive of the job the brave men and women (of law enforcement) put in every day.”

Additionally, he said police have been under scrutiny lately and he wanted to support them during this difficult time.

“There’s been a lot of unfortunate stuff that’s gone on as of late,” Merryfield said.

He said he’d also heard about police giving bears when a crisis situation involves a child to comfort them.  Merryfield tried to find departments nearby to Learning Shop locations.  Therefore, donations were made to the Mequon Police Department as well as departments near their Greendale, Brookfield, Wauwatosa, Appleton, and Madison stores.

Merryfield said the departments are “thrilled” with the donation and customers at the Learning Shop have been “very receptive” as well.  He said there was one lady in their Brookfield location that purchased a bear and added it to the donation.

Starting a company

Prathap said the company was started to solve a few problems in today’s toy industry.  The first problem, according to him, is the fact that “everything currently sold is made with polyester, dangerous metals, and other harmful things.”

Bears For Humanity plushes are certified 100 percent organic.

“We're the Whole Foods of teddy bears,” Prathap said, adding the bears are actually sold in Whole Foods stores.

Secondly, Prathap said practically all toys and gifts sold in the U.S. are made in China.  He said Bears For Humanity works with India, not China and they are made in the United States.  Prathap said soon Bears For Humanity is planning to get machines on military bases creating jobs for military spouses.

“It’s not innovative, it’s doing the right thing,” Prathap said.

When someone purchases a bear or other animal, there is an option to donate another animal to a charity of choice.  Prathap said he wanted to do something that matters, which is where the “buy one, give one” system originated. The company will soon launch a children’s clothing line with the same mentality.

“Bears For Humanity is a journey of creating jobs, creating great products that are organic, sustainable, and safe,” Prathap said.

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