Pacific Life Employees Volunteer for a “Bear-y” Good Cause

More than 4,000 teddy bears were stuffed for children of deploying military personnel.

The collective sounds of laughter, cheerful banter, and adoring “aww”s could be heard across the Newport Beach, Aliso Viejo, Omaha, Lynchburg, and Bloomington, Minn. locations as Pacific Life employees stuffed teddy bears for Operation Gratitude.

Operation Gratitude is a nonprofit organization that seeks to lift spirits and meet the evolving needs of the U.S. Military and First Responder communities. These teddy bears, or Battalion Buddies, bring comfort to tens of thousands of anxious children who will not see their deploying parent for a long time.

“The Pacific Life Foundation is proud to be able to provide these onsite volunteer opportunities in celebration of our 150th Anniversary. Seeing the difference a small act of kindness can make in someone’s life is pretty powerful,” said Tennyson Oyler, President of the Pacific Life Foundation

“For this project specifically, more than 1,500 employees gave up just one hour of their own time to provide comfort to more than 4,000 children," he added.  "That is an amazing thing to do for the men and women who serve our country, and we had a great time doing it!”

There were more than 9,000 children on the waiting list to receive a Battalion Buddy. Pacific Life fulfilled nearly 45 percent of that need.

For many volunteers, the project’s mission hits close to home.  Many volunteered in honor of their spouses, sons, daughters, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and loved ones who have served in the military.

Andrew Norton, Fixed Annuity Specialist, is currently a member of the Army National Guard in Nebraska who has been deployed overseas twice. He signed all the cards attached to his bears with “Sgt. Norton.”

“I hope Pacific Life continues to support these organizations and we can do more events like this, because deployments impact entire families, not just the service members,” said Sgt. Norton.

Demetra Pannell, Customer Service Representative, New Business Operations in Lynchburg, has a son who is in the U.S. Army under the National Guard. She has participated in many volunteer opportunities in her community, but none of them touched her heart as much as this event did.

“To build a bear that would be held in the hands of a small child of a military representative brought me so much joy,” Demetra said.

Stuffing the teddy bears was also an opportunity for volunteers to blow off steam, have some fun, and bond with each other.  Many people felt quite attached to the adorable, fuzzy bears, having spent an hour bringing them to life.

For the National Sales Office in Bloomington, Minn., this was their first time joining a company-wide volunteer event. Kathleen Olona, Director of Operations, reported that the team enjoyed the opportunity and really poured their heart and soul into this project.

“There were a lot of comments of, ‘ooh, they are so soft’, ‘they are so cute’, and ‘I wish I could have one!’ Everyone made sure to give ‘their’ bear a special hug and best wishes as they were packed up to send to the children " she said. 

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