By Published On: June 5, 2023Categories: Buddy Bear Program, Fundraising


For the past five years, The Woodlands Kiwanis Club has spearheaded the Tom Evans’ “Hey Buddy!” Bear Program to provide a friendly and cuddly bear to over 5,500 children, single moms, and health workers to evoke a sense of peace, security, and comfort.

“Woodlands Kiwanis Club effort aims to raise spirits of hospitalized children”

Houston☆Chronicle, Jeff Forward, AP Award Winner

Buddy Bear Program Uvalde

A Brother’s Love

by John Hennigan

The following is a story of love, loss, and moving forward. Tom Evans, like so many committed community members, got himself involved with a service organization, the South County Kiwanis Club, in The Woodlands, Texas. He was always available for the club’s many sponsored events—the annual prayer breakfast, kids fishing tournament, kids’ triathlon, and Special Olympics, to name a very few.

Tom wholeheartedly supported the Kiwanis mission of “improving the world, one child at a time.” With that belief, he came to a crossroads in January 2018, when his brother Don Evans passed away, and his sister-in-law began sharing about Don’s special passion. She explained to him that, during the course of Don’s cancer treatment, he would stop by the hospital gift shop, on his way to appointments, and purchase two stuffed bears to give to the kids hospitalized there. Over the last six years of his life, Don gave over 150 stuffed animals to these very sick children.

Tom was not sure how to approach the Kiwanis club about adding another charity project, but hoping to carry on his brother’s legacy, began to discuss “the bear project” with individual club members. The consensus was that this project was special and would be embraced by the club. So, Tom set up a meeting at Texas Children’s Hospital, and the “Bears for Kids” project was born.

The project is simple; once a quarter, volunteers come to the hospital and pass out “bears” (shorthand for a wide variety of stuffed animals) to hospitalized children. Tom set a goal to give what his brother had given in six years—150 bears—but to do so each and every quarter.

Who could imagine how this project would soar! No one thought this would be anything more than a wonderful local project. Apparently, Tom didn’t get the memo. The Bears for Kids project, in its first two years, gave out 4,000 stuffed animals—more than three times the goal, and counting! The bears have been shared not only with children in the hospital, but also with their siblings at home.

This humble man, who talks about this project as a success, always refers to it as “OUR SUCCESS” because he witnessed so much love and support from so many—more than he could ever imagine. Bears seem to come from everywhere. In some instances, individuals and organizations purchase the bears, then donate them; in others, they simply write a check for Tom to purchase more. Many local businesses discount or donate stuffed animals, 2 of all kinds, to ensure that there is never a time when a child must go without the comfort of a stuffed friend.

Sharing the Warmth of Love

Tom has so many stories of how people share their love: Once, as volunteers were making their hospital rounds, passing out bears to patients, a young boy sheepishly said, “I have three sisters at home who need them more than I do.” There was nothing else that needed to be said—three bears were on their way home to his sisters.

In another story, Tom spoke to a former youth minister from his church; the man was not overly impressed with the project, until he visited his very ill nephew at Texas Children’s Hospital and found him clutching one of the bears. The minister was so touched that he went to his church and raised a $1000 donation.

There are so many who stepped up in support of this project: The Woodlands Kiwanis members, The Woodlands Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Woodforest Wealth Strategies, Bradbury Brothers Cooling Heating Plumbing and Electrical, Arline Foods, Chevron Phillips Chemical, Golden Penguins, and countless community members.

This journey has been amazing for Kiwanis members, and all those who have volunteered and donated. The love of Tom Evans for his brother, and the commitment he has made to Don’s dream of bringing smiles to children in the hospital, are inspirational.

What is next? Well, surely you didn’t think that this was where it starts and ends. Tom has recently added crayons for the children, an added plus for these little patients. It’s amazing to think, what else could someone does? Tom’s dream is that every Kiwanis club in the United States adopt this project. There are so many children’s and cancer hospitals in our country that could so greatly benefit, if only they were made aware. I’m guessing Tom will make sure they are.

About the author : Doreen Ivy Dionela

Doreen Ivy Dionela is a content writer for WeKinnect Global Branding Agency who manages the digital marketing for The Woodlands Kiwanis. Her content writing skills have been honed by crafting compelling outputs across various digital platforms, such as websites, blogs, and social media. She takes pride in her ability to create informative and engaging content. Her goal is to further amplify her digital marketing skills to create more positive marketing results.