If you go into the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.
At least, that’s how it went for George Einarson. The longtime volunteer at the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba’s Teddy Bears’ Picnic recently went to the Assiniboine Park Pavilion for what he thought was a strategy meeting with event stakeholders. Instead, the St. Vital resident was honoured with a special celebration and awarded the title of entertainment chair emeritus for his contribution to the foundation and the picnic since its debut in 1987.
After 27 years, Einarson stepped aside from his role as volunteer and organizing committee member after the recent May 26 picnic.
"It was unbelievable. The celebration caught me completely by surprise," said Einarson, adding he was presented with a number of gifts, including a patchwork quilt featuring pictures from past picnics.
"My whole family, including my new grandson, was there, as well as some of the performers. It was very kind of them, but it really and truly is a team effort. It’s like a family."
One of the original organizers of the picnic, Einarson became involved with the foundation when he worked for CBC Manitoba back when the event was held before a 24-hour telethon featuring broadcasts from the picnic.
And after being heavily involved with more than two dozen picnics come rain, wind or shine, Einarson is happy the event is still firmly focused on families.
"In the beginning, we figured the best idea was to have a picnic because everybody likes picnics and we would have Dr. Goodbear. It started to grow from there," said Einarson, who recently picked up an award of distinction from Tourism Winnipeg for his volunteer work at Festival du Voyageur.
"The key point was ,if kids saw their stuffed animals being taken care of, and if they had to go to the hospital, they’d be less frightened. We have the Dr. Goodbear Clinic and numerous events and activities to promote awareness, so the kids can feel safe."
While sharing his memories just days before his final picnic, Einarson recalled the year the much-loved Canadian television character Mr. Dressup came for a visit.
"We invited him to come and I was amazed at the amount of parents who were so delighted. They all wanted to give him a hug, as it was like reliving their childhood," he said.
One of Einarson’s roles has been to oversee the event’s entertainment at the Lyric Theatre. He noted how much he’s enjoyed working with mainstay acts such as the Orlan Ukrainian Dancers, Hinode Taiko and Just Kiddin’ to name a few.
"A good part of my heart will always be with the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, as it’s been my chance to give back. I’ve been so blessed. It will always be one of the highlights of my life," he said.
The foundation’s director of operations, Chris Anderson, has been a key organizer with Einarson from the beginning.
"George has built a strong team of good people. He’s a very modest, reliable guy who just gets on with it. He’s done it for the cause and for all the right reasons. His love shines through," Anderson said.
For more information, visit www.goodbear.mb.ca