by Kathy Johnson
What started out as a $5 challenge to a seven year old boy to see what he could do to make a difference has earned the respect and admiration of Canadian soldiers who have been serving in Afghanistan.
Josh Perry, who is now 8, has been making and sending out Josh’s Caring Bears for more than a year now.
From nursing homes residents and patients at the IWK children’s hospital, to neighbours and complete strangers on the street, Josh has given out more than 300 Caring Bears to anyone he felt could use a teddy bear to brighten their day.
The more teddy bears that Josh gave, the more support he got from family, friends, the community and the recipients, who were touched by the gesture.
In recognition of his humanitarian work, Josh was presented with a $200 cheque from Branch #148 of the Royal Canadian Legion during the Remembrance Day Service at the Evelyn Richardson Memorial Elementary School (ERMES) in 2011. The donation was in memory of Sgt. Kirk Taylor, a former ERMES student who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009 and a close friend to the Perry family.
In memory of Sgt. Taylor, Josh decided to send some of his caring bears overseas to Canadian Troops serving in Kandahar and Kabul. Where regulations prevented Josh from sending the actual bears, cards were sent with a picture of the bear he wanted them to have, along with a note inviting the recipient to contact him if they wanted to.
While Josh has had some correspondence from soldiers who had received his Caring Bear card, he was totally unprepared when some of Canada’s finest attended the Celebrating Student Success Assembly at ERMES on Nov. 28 to say thanks in person.
Captain Roy Pugh, who just returned to Halifax from Afghanistan on Nov. 22, was one of the soldiers who received a card from Josh.
“I’m still getting used to being back home,” Sgt. Pugh told the students, explaining in part to them the role Canadians are playing in Afghanistan is to help make it a safer place for the citizens of that country.
Major Rick Comeau, who was a long time friend of Sgt. Kirk Taylor also attended the assembly, telling the students the reason Sgt. Taylor went to Afghanistan was that he wanted to make a difference and to help make that country a safer place.
“When we’re away we wonder what kind of support we get from Canadians,” said Cpt. Pugh. Letters and cards of support are received by the soldiers on a regular basis from caring Canadians, said Pugh, but when he opened Josh’s Caring Bear card with the invitation to contact him, it touched a cord and was an offer he couldn’t pass up.
In appreciation, Cpt. Pugh presented Josh with a t-shirt autographed by soldiers who served with him in Afghanistan, a watch and his Afghanistan rotation coin.
Josh was also presented with a Royal Artillery coin and Artillery ID tags by Chief Warrant Officer Rob LeLievre as well as a donation to the teddy fund by Cpt. Pugh.
“He (Josh) was so excited when he got home,” said mom Shelley, adding Josh is already trying to come up with a idea of how to put the latest caring fund donation to good use.