Parade raises $23,000 for programs supporting women -

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Students and parents from East Gresham, East Orient and Hogan Cedars elementary schools march in the Gresham Teddy Bear Parade Saturday.The 34th-annual Teddy Bear Parade took over the streets of downtown Gresham on Saturday morning to the delight of thousands of spectators. There were colorful floats, marching bands, classic cars, animals, clowns and of course, plenty of teddy bears.

The event, hosted by the Soroptimists International of Gresham group, is a chance for the whole city to come out in celebration while supporting good causes.

“This is a special event for the community,” said Naomi Wolff, president-elect of the Soroptimists. “When I go out and talk about the Teddy Bear Parade, people’s eyes light up.”

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Spectators pack Main Avenues sidewalks Saturday as the Teddy Bear Parade makes its way through downtown Gresham.The parade, which has grown into a community tradition, began at 10 a.m. with cheers from those lining the streets to watch. The first entry was a Weston Fire Department truck full of Pack 6 Boy Scouts from Troutdale.

The parade route does a big loop through downtown, which has its streets shut down for the event. Many attendees bring their own camping chairs, while several restaurants on the route also move their chairs to the curb. East Hill Church parking lot serves as the staging area.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Members of the Inspire Dance Center queue up for the Teddy Bear Parade decked out in Nutcracker garb. Local politicians came out to walk in the parade, as did most of the local schools with their bands. The dance studios and martial arts groups brought their students to entertain the crowd, while Cha Cha the Clown rode around on a bicycle asking kids to show her their teddy bears. There were horses, balloons and firetrucks, and even Santa Claus took a break from preparing for Christmas at the North Pole to visit Gresham on a float.

“We have as many participants as we do spectators,” Peggy Johansen, parade chairwoman, told The Outlook.

Powell Valley had decorated its van to look like a giant teddy bear, while Pediatric Therapy Services had a float designed to look like a big bed.

“You recognize our diversity in the community during the parade because there are so many individuals and businesses represented,” Wolff said. “Gresham and Rockwood aren’t separate things, and coming together to walk in the parade alongside your neighbors shows that.”

The parade is especially geared toward children.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - A Teddy Bear Parade participant strikes a patriotic pose Saturday along Miller Avenue. “Seeing the faces on the kids — they just get there, and they can hardly wait,” Johansen said. “They really enjoy the whole thing.”

None of it would be possible without everything that is done by the volunteers, who work long hours to ensure the parade goes smoothly.

This year the Soroptimists were able to raise $23,000, which is a huge gain for a single-day event. The funds, which are generated through sponsorships and entry fees, go a long way in supporting all the service and community activities the organization does. These include scholarships, mentorship programs and career training.

Attendees were also encouraged to bring nonperishable food donations this year for SnowCap Community Charities, which serves low-income individuals and families in East Multnomah County.

The Soroptimists are a global volunteer network of women in 130 countries and territories that work to improve the lives of women and girls. The local group spearheads many events throughout the year, like the Teddy Bear Parade, to support the community.

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