Hearts and rainbows and bears brighten daily walks

Caroline, right, and Annaliese Lindhorst, who live in Charleston, practice their painting skills before making hearts for their window. Hearts, bears and other positive images are part of a scavenger hunt craze.

Children in neighborhoods all over are going on bear hunts.

Not the kind in the woods, but fuzzy little guys that are the “bear-ers” of love and hope.

The teddy bear scavenger hunt idea started on Facebook and has quickly morphed into a craze that old and young alike are enjoying.

And it isn’t just teddy bears. Some neighborhoods have rainbows in their windows, or other animals like foxes.

In Stiles Point Plantation in Charleston, it’s colorful hearts. They can be spotted taped in windows and doors, posted on mailboxes, and hanging from streamers on porches.

Kids, who have quickly become bored with the social distancing walks, get excited about finding the newest additions.

Butz, a bear that first saw action in World War II, is part of the scavenger hunt in Columbia.

Kate Silver, a pediatric and adult rheumatologist, is on maternity leave with her baby boy, Ryan, and is “homeschooling” her two girls, Caroline and Annaliese. Her husband, Scott Lindhorst, is a neuro-oncologist and is also working remotely. Silver said there have been a lot of positives from the family togetherness, but it can be hard sometimes to find fun activities.

The scavenger hunts have helped. Caroline and Annaliese each made their own heart and love looking at all the others in the neighborhood.

“We’ve enjoyed seeing the hearts on all the windows and it makes the walk more fun,” Silver said.

In Columbia, a bear dating all the way back to World War II is part of the scavenger hunt.

Janine Calcote said Butz helped her late mother get through the war when she was growing up in Germany. Now, 80 years later, he’s helping kids find a little brightness and fun during the coronavirus pandemic.

As parents take walks and bike rides with their children, the scavenger hunt can help relieve the stress from families being cooped up together at home.

Kim McIntyre was one of the first people in Columbia to actively organize a Bear Hunt in her Forest Acres neighborhood.

McIntyre said she works for a local school district and misses seeing the students every day. She heard about the scavenger hunts from a relative in another state and posted the idea on the Nextdoor social networking site. It took off and soon bears started popping up on porches and in windows all over town.

“Pulling together to provide support for our children and each other can come from the smallest gestures and random acts of kindness like this,” McIntyre said. “I thought that this was something simple to do to spread joy and brighten up the faces of our neighbors… Seeing the activity spread throughout the Columbia area brings to a smile to my heart.”

Calcote said she read about the idea on Nextdoor and added Butz to the hunt. The vintage bear looks remarkably spry for his age, and his repairs, including a double-ear replacement, aren’t even noticeable.

“He’s a beautiful bear for his age and he was there for my mother when she was a girl, so I heard about the hunt and said why not, let’s have some fun with this,” Calcote said.

McIntyre is already promoting the next phase of the project. She’s put out a call for people to form a “Bunny Trail”  by placing bunnies in their windows and yards for people to spot as Easter approaches.

By Christina Lee Knauss and Amy Wise Taylor