Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Monday, November 07, 2005

Polar Bear Adventure Day 1: Travel, Bears, and Good Friends

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
-Lao Tzu

Our journey to Churchill began on Sunday October 30 with a 4:30 am limo ride. Courtesy of Make-A-Wish, we traveled to the airport in style.

The air travel portion of our journey went smoothly (well, almost). We flew first to Denver, had a 45-minute layover, then a 90-minute flight to Winnipeg, where we arrived at 1:15 pm, ahead of schedule.

In Winnipeg, we waited at the carousel for our bags, all five of them. We waited and waited until the carousel was empty and then we waited some more, hoping there would be more luggage coming down the ramp.

Finally, I went to the luggage counter to see what was up. The man typed furiously at a keyboard and eventually told me our luggage didn't make it from Denver. He said they could put it on the next plane, which would arrive at 9:35 pm.

The four of us had traveled to Winnipeg in T-shirts. We had packed all our jackets and boots, they were in the absent luggage. Our train was to leave for Churchill at 8:40 pm, an hour before the earliest time the luggage would arrive.

I burst into tears, poor Steven is trying desperately to cheer me up, the other customs employees are walking over to see what the problem is. We fill out a bunch of forms.

Finally we are done, we leave the customs area and walk into the airport sans baggage, me still sniffling and blotting at my eyes.

Ellen and Curtis

Now, to backtrack a little. In a previous post, I mentioned we were going to try and meet up with our friend Ellen in Winnipeg.

Back in June, Ellen had posted about an event in Winnipeg, where different businesses would purchase lifesize concrete polar bears and artists would paint them. The bears were displayed in downtown Winnipeg starting in May, the display was called Bears On Broadway. Proceeds from the sales of the bears benefit CancerCare Manitoba.

The bears were removed from display the week before we got to Winnipeg, some being shipped off to other locations and most of them being stored in a warehouse at a decommissioned military base.

Ellen had emailed me two weeks previously telling me that she had just happened to mention Steven and his upcoming visit when she was meeting with her financial planner. Her financial planner had purchased one of the bears on display, and offered to arrange it so Steven could see the bears in their place of hibernation.

I didn't post about it because we wanted it to be a surprise for Steven. Ellen put me in touch with a woman named Doneta, who works for Ellen's financial advisor and who organized the polar bear fundraiser.

Doneta and I had emailed back and forth before we got there, and Doneta had offered to meet us at the airport and drive us to see the bears and meet Ellen and Curtis.

Steven and Doneta

So, back to the airport. We walked out of customs and into the airport, and there was Doneta waiting for us. She took one look at our polar bear T-shirts, our lack of luggage, and the tears still pouring out of my eyes, and stepped up and introduced herself. She had already figured out we had luggage issues, and took us over to talk to the airline about what we might be able to do.

Doneta was amazing. She's very well connected and seems to know everyone we encountered in Winnipeg. She found someone who located our luggage in Denver and discussed what the airline might be able to do for us. The airline doesn't consider the luggage gone until after 5 days and won't do anything to help until then.

So she got on the phone with Ellen's financial advisor and he offered to pay to get us outfitted with enough clothes to make it to Churchill.

Doneta drove us to Value Village, a secondhand clothing store, and we walked in and found sweatshirts and winter coats for all of us.

Twenty five minutes and eighty dollars later, the four of us had enough clothing to get all four of us to Churchill, and we were on our way to meet Ellen and Curtis and the bears.

Doneta saved us, we've never been to Canada before, much less Winnipeg, we never would have known what to do.

There are angels among us and Doneta is one of them, it's funny how things work out sometimes...

So now for a few of the bears...

Bling-Bling Bear and Ellen

It was so special having Doneta there to tell us about the bears, since she organized the Bears event, she knew everything about them.

Biker Bear (notice the fish skeleton tattoo on his right arm)

Each bear has a story, the person or business who bought the bear, the artist who painted the bear, stories about how the bear fared on display (some bears seemed to be targets for vandalism).

Biker Bear from behind (notice "Born To Fish" on the back of his vest)

It was such a treat to be able to do this, Steven loved it.

Ellen brought a collection of gifts for Steven, a T-shirt with Snowbank Bear on it, a book with a description of all the bears from the exhibit in it (and autographs of some of the artists), a poster for Sean of all the bears in the exhibit, and Trek The Hope Bear for Steven to take with him to Churchill. We had gifts for Ellen and Curtis too, but they were in our missing luggage.

Ellen and Steven with an armful of gifts

After the bears, we all went out to dinner together, then Doneta took us to the train station. Not content to drop us off to walk in on our own, Doneta parked and walked in with us and introduced us to the owner of Frontiers North, the tour company we would be traveling with to Churchill.

Steven wearing his Value Village shirt in our room on the train

After everyone from the tour arrived, we finally boarded the train. We had two rooms, each with two bunks, a sink, and a toilet. The entire room including washroom was smaller than a king size bed, and Steven just loved it.

When I was finally tucking him into bed on the train Sunday night, Steven sighed happily and with a huge smile as he closed his eyes, he said, "I'm so happy, this is the most exciting day of my life!"

We can't thank Ellen, Curtis, Doneta and Ellen's financial advisor Dwaine enough for their part in making last Sunday such a special day.

To Be Continued...

- Kathleen



Anonymous Anonymous said...


October 08, 2009 9:46 AM  

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