It was 1993 and my previous broker asked if I would consider helping out Patricia Howard, the nurse at Eanes Elementary School with a little of my time on a special volunteer project. We had moved our family into the district a year earlier and though my children were only one and four years of age, I said sure. Little did I know that I would be involved with a volunteer effort that would last fifteen years and entail presentations to thousands of Kindergarten and first grade students at four different elementary schools in the Eanes School District. Patricia informed me that all I had to do was dress up in a bear costume as "Healthy Bear" and assist in teaching a program about the importance and health benefits of washing your hands. Here is the most inteteresting fact: The number 1 way germs are spread in the world is people NOT washing their hands! Reluctant but always game and exacting a promise that it would never get out and become public knowledge I agreed. I did think it was a bit weird at first and did not really want it known that I was prancing about in a bear costume before a bunch of school kids. (You know, with the likes of Krusty the Klown, Michael Jackson and others who had given those who volunteer with children a bad rap!)
My performances that week went fairly well in spite of a case of stage fright before a crowd of adoring 5 & 6 year olds and the fact that the costume made me sweat like a politician in church. I don't know what was so completely daunting because in a previous life, I had performed with several rock bands and engaged in all sorts of wild antics and well, that's another story... In fact, it went so well that Patricia "volunteered" my services to the other school nurses and counselors and before I knew it I was performing at four of the five elementary schools in the Eanes School District. Every January, I would take a few mornings a week and show up at the different schools and do the program. I made it into something fun and managed to mildly harass the teachers in some mischievous ways. I guess I was enjoying my influence as Healthy Bear and could not pass up the chance to have a little fun. I also made it a point to assign "homework" asking the kids to make sure that everyone in their homes engaged in regular hand washing protocol. I have to tell you there is nothing as relentless as a six year old evangelizing about hand washing (and I hear about this from clients all the time)!
Over the years I put in performances in all sorts of situations. One time between shows, I was on the phone with another realtor who was way out of line and I was responding in a direct and somewhat discordant manner. After I hung up the phone, the Principal and the school nurse were looking at me and one of them said, "So, what do you think that agent would a have done if they had seen you in that bear costume?" My answer was "she would have run or "not even" taken me seriously" so I am glad it was on the phone and NOT in Person. Over the years, I was Healthy Bear to both of my children while they were at Forest Trail Elementary and they were thrilled to know the secret behind the bear. One time the nurse made the mistake of asking me to transport the costume to Barton Creek Elementary and I ended up wearing it to the office and to visit some of my more "open minded" clients! This week, I started my fifteenth year as Healthy Bear but these days have narrowed down the performances to helping my friends Linda Kimbrough at Forest Trail Elementary and Bonnie Bucholz at Barton Creek Elementary . I will probably continue as long as either of them requests my services. I have to say that the Eanes School District has an incredible reputation and rightly so. The teachers and curriculum are first class and another contributing factor is the level of parental involvement. Friends and neighbors who take the time to show up and help in a thousand ways that keep the standards so high are what help make tour schools so spectacular. Schools everywhere are in need of outside, it only takes a little time and a willingness to help out! Have a great day and REMEMBER TO WASH YOUR HANDS!