The tradition of the Teddy Bear Express is still rolling along in Glen Rose, bringing sparks of Christmas joy to area youngsters each year.

The effort to give out one free Teddy bear to all local children who want one began in 2011, coordinated by volunteer Eva Hanke. Hanke passed away at age 83 in October 2017, but not before passing the torch to Karen Singletary, who has been been organizing the program ever since with the support of several other members of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship Church.

This year 750 Teddy bears and other stuffed animals were gathered for the big giveaway last Saturday at the gazebo on the square downtown — the night of the lighted Christmas parade and the lighting of the giant Christmas tree.

Each child is allowed to sort through the bears to find the one that seems just right.

Cornerstone pastor James Oliver said about 500 of the Teddy bears were given away, which was about the same number as last year’s tally.

“We think that it went great,” said Oliver, adding that up to 15 volunteers contribute time to help with the program. “It’s a heartwarming feeling to see the kids’ eyes perk up when they get to choose the Teddy bear that’s right for them.”

The bears are either donated directly to the church for the Teddy Bear Express or are purchased through donations made to Cornerstone for that purpose.

Oliver noted that some of the left over bears will be donated to the Somervell County Sheriff’s Office and the Somervell County Fire Department, to have handy whenever a young child is involved in an incident and needs to be comforted. There may be other giveaway opportunities as well, and the rest will be stored for next year’s Teddy Bear Express event.

“We try to get to 700, to make sure we have that many,” Oliver said. “All of them (left over) will be available for next year.”