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On the occasion of me becoming a large bear August 27, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Awana, Church.
Tags: ,

Last night was our first Awana club for the year at church. That’s when we gather on Wednesday nights with hundreds of children and mainly try to have fun and read the Bible without A) injuring, or B) losing any of them.

Last night represented a bit of a pinnacle in my Awana career because of something special that happened to us recently. I’ve joked for years about wanting this one item in the Awana catalog, a full-size Cubbie Bear costume. Cubbie Bear is the mascot for the 3- and 4-year-olds and an all around cool dude. The Cubbie Bear costume is rather expensive, like most Awana stuff, so it has remained for me a dream deferred, not unlike Langston Hughes’ raisin in the sun. Until now.

I was joking again during our training session for new leaders this year that we had about $12 in our Cubbie Bear Costume Fund. Of course, there was no such fund, and I always assumed no such costume, either. Later that night, one of the families showed up at our door with a check. “We talked and we decided we’d like to pay for the Cubbie Bear costume,” they announced to our incredulous faces. Cubbie Bear fruition. Dream no longer deferred. I felt like a kid at Christmas.

The big box arrived about a week later, and the big night, our Cubbie Bear debut, finally came. I tried the costume on about an hour early to see if it would fit. Along the way I figured out you have to take your shoes off, then put the furry shoe covers on, then put your shoes back on. I also learned that I’m just about as tall as one can be in the costume, and that I’m not nearly fat enough. I found some makeshift stuffing. Finally, I confirmed my suspicion that bears are made of warm cozy fur and this is still August in the ATL and that Cubbie would be spending his time inside that evening.

When the kids started to arrive, I found some stuffing, snuck into an empty room, and donned the costume. The next 20 minutes were so much fun. There were three categories of children that night:

Category 1: I’m a little too old to get too excited about a big bear walking around, but deep down inside I think Cubbie is totally cool.

Category 2: Oh. My. Goodness. That’s… that’s the REAL Cubbie Bear! This is like my wildest dreams coming true! Must touch. Must hug. My life will never be the same.

Category 3: AAAHHHH! MOMMY! THERE’S A BEAR!! AND HE’S SIX FEET TALL!! WHY AREN’T YOU PEOPLE RUNNING FOR YOUR LIVES?!! You just keep your distance, you scary bear. I’m watching you!

One little toddler (Category 2) followed me around the whole night, giggling. I did my best not to trample him as I peered through the little screen in Cubbie’s mouth. He must have hugged me a dozen times, and he just guffawed when I patted his head.

One Category 3 tike was walking through the front door when he glanced up, spotted me, and did a priceless double-take as the look of dread spread on his face. He almost fell down, right there on his bum, trying to crawl up his mommy’s leg.

A group of slightly older boys gave me hearty high-fives and then stood back a bit, watching me and sizing up the scene. Honestly, I sometimes forget what goes through children’s heads. Turns out these boys, who were old enough to know better, were having a fairly serious debate about whether or not I was, in fact, a real bear. As in, wild animal. Finally, one put on a wise face and whispered to his friend, “Look, you can see part of his shoe. I told you it’s just a guy.” Bittersweet to be a part of the end of the innocence, but really, it was time.

A sweet little girl wrapped her arms around me and then turned to her mother, smiling. “Oh my, mommy, he’s very soft!”

All too soon it was time for me to become Mr. Mark again, so I went back into my bear cave. Amy said that some of the older kids stood staring, wondering how I vanished like that. Another little cutie who can’t quite say her “R” sounds stood angrily in the hall, devastated that she had missed me, demanding, “Wheyw is Cubbie Beyw?”

Another time one of our leaders, Mr. Jimmy, who has a devious streak in him, decided it would be fun to perch me on a chair completely still as if I was a stuffed bear. Then my little friend Joshua came around, and Mr. Jimmy asked him if I was real. Joshua timidly poked me once or twice and I didn’t move. Then he lifted my arm, and I let it flop right back down. Mr. Jimmy said, “Why don’t you go give him a hug?” and just as Joshua approached I sprung out of the chair and wrapped my bear paws around him. He freaked. We laughed. I realize I have now ruined any chance of any of you sending your children to our church.


I could have been Cubbie Bear all night. We’re so happy that we’ve gotten the costume. It’s one of those silly, frivolous things that we know is not necessary for ministry, and we feel like God gave it to us anyway, just to show us a glimpse of His extravagant love.

Now we just need to start a fund for the therapy bills for those Category Threes. And Joshua.

Cubbie costume



1. Dot Geil - August 27, 2009

Mark, You never fail to amaze us-your many talents are indescribable!

2. amy Geil - August 28, 2009

Do ya really think it takes talent to wear a bear costume???

3. Dave Sloan - September 3, 2009

To wear one? Probably not, but to terorize toddlers with one, now that takes talent.

4. markgeil - September 3, 2009

Thanks for the love, Dave. I have toddler-terrorizing skillz, with a “z”.

5. Debbie Martinez - September 27, 2010

Hi! My name is Debbie Martinez, I am a Cubbie Bear Director going on my 3rd year and I would very much like to get a hold of a patteren for Cubbie Bear, for our Awanas in Vacaville,Ca. Our church is New Hope Christian Fellowship and I think this would be an Awsome addition to our cubbies, I read out the cubbie bear costume in one of our lessions and now I can’t let it go and it would be fun to make one, I’ve made costumes in the past a larger one wouldn’t be any differen. If some one could help me find a cubbie bear costume patteren to purchase that would be awsome.
Thank you very much.
Debbie Martinez

6. Brice Habegger - August 12, 2012

Where did you get the costume? I am doing a session on marketing AWANA to the community and would love to have a resource for Cubbie and Sparky.

markgeil - August 13, 2012

We ordered it from the Awana catalog. Good costume, though this was years ago and I don’t know if they still sell them. I believe they had a Sparky suit available at that time too.

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