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Coronavirus teddy bear scavenger hunt unites communities

'Just because we’re social distancing doesn’t mean we have to socially isolate'

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Kids in the U.S. are taking a page out of Michael Rosen’s 1989 children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” playing an "I spy" game with teddy bears in windows due to the coronavirus quarantines that have kept millions at home.

Tennessee resident Shanna Bonner Groom is credited for kick-starting the plush scavenger hunt in her Stewart Springs neighborhood. It all began with a private Facebook group, according to Time magazine.

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“Within hours, everybody was responding and wanting to join in,” she told the publication. “Everybody’s trying to enjoy this time at home with each other but do social distancing at the same time. So we’re trying to come up with some fun activities.”

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Nearly 100 homes in Stewart Springs are participating in the bear hunt, according to Groom. And many of the kids who play wear safari outfits or carry binoculars when they’re allowed to step out and stretch their legs.

“We have some houses where probably every stuffed animal they own is stuffed into a window,” Groom told TIME. “Some families have turned it into a safari instead of a bear hunt because you see other animals. People are putting bear prints on their sidewalks with chalk. It’s morphed into more.”

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She added, “Just because we’re social distancing doesn’t mean we have to socially isolate… We’re trying to come together as a community but still be six feet apart.”

In South Carolina, Rhodes Bailey’s family is participating in the bear hunt that’s being hosted in the Hamptons and Old Woodlands neighborhoods of Columbia. However, for the Baileys, the hunt is more than a game.

“It’s a way of communicating with other people while you’re still safe in your family isolation,” Bailey explained. “It’s like a silent visual message that families get to send to each other from their windows and it says, ‘We’re all in this together. I’m experiencing what you’re experiencing.'”

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The bear hunt has also been a hit with the staff at Build-A-Bear Workshop.

“At Build-A-Bear Workshop, we firmly support the belief in the importance of the joy, comfort and security that teddy bears and other furry friends can provide during stressful times, especially for children. We are so pleased that the 'Teddy Bear Hunt' naturally evolved by families for families in support of community and children," a Build-A-Bear spokesperson told FOX Business.

"We encourage friendly neighbors everywhere to participate by placing their favorite Build-A-Bear buddies in their windows for kids, and kids at heart, to find," Build-A-Bear's statement continued. "In a difficult time on so many fronts, we are heartened by the numerous photos and positive comments that have been shared as families spot the furry friends waving back at them from the sidewalk. It's a perfect statement of our corporate mission of 'adding a little more heart to life.'"

This article has been updated with commentary from Build-A-Bear.