Newsletter Archives

CancerCare Manitoba exceeds fundraising
goal with Bears on Broadway

75th anniversary celebration dramatically
increases awareness of cancer prevention

You just can’t drop off 62 four-ton polar bears in the center of a major city in the middle of the night and expect to get away with it. But that’s probably just fine with the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, which exceeded all goals including their $500,000 fundraising objective with their Bears On Broadway project.

CancerCare Manitoba Foundation's Bears on Broadway, Presented by the Winnipeg FoundationDesigned as a fundraiser, a celebratory event to mark their 75th anniversary, and as a unique way of highlighting steps everyone can take to reduce their risk of cancer, Bears On Broadway was a winner well before 16 flatbed trucks and two cranes invaded downtown Winnipeg on May 25 to place the 7-foot creatures in their new summer homes.

The project generated support from various levels of government, 63 corporations, presenting sponsor The Winnipeg Foundation, media outlets, volunteers and artists, before the bears were ever created.

In similar previous fundraising displays throughout North America, fiberglass models of cows, moose and orca whales were initially paid for by government and later sold at auction. With Bears On Broadway, the sculptures were sold in advance for $10,000 to $12,500 to corporate sponsors.

“The amazing thing is that the sponsors offered to buy their bears outright,” said Barry McArton, Executive Director of CancerCare Manitoba. “They didn’t want an auction, so we asked for donations of either $10,000 or $12,500 and got them. We no longer had to organize a dinner or auction.”

Bears on Broadway had raised over $320,000 before the bears emerged from their winter homes at Kapyong Barracks in Winnipeg, but money continued to pour in for the project throughout the summer through two separate locations.

Snow Angel - The Honor BearSnow Bank Bear in downtown Winnipeg collected spare change all summer. And for a minium contribution of $75, individual names could be gracefully rendered by hand on to the magnificent Snow Angel - The Honor Bear, to honour or remember loved ones.

Key advice received during the planning of the project included limiting the direct selling of merchandise, ensuring the art display had a clear setting rather than being spread all over the place; and ensuring it didn’t stay in place for too long, thus avoiding public boredom.

Polar bears were chosen for the project based on the fact that Manitoba is well known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, and because Winnipeg is the original home of Winnie the Pooh. Everything worked.

When the beautifully decorated 8000-pound cement bears hit the street public interest increased dramatically, capturing the imagination of residents and visitors alike, with large groups strolling up and down a tree-lined Broadway Ave. to visit their colorful new neighbors. The Winnipeg Free Press, a media sponsor along with CJOB Radio and Global TV, ran full pages with descriptions of the project and biographies on every bear.Aurora-Bear

“I was very impressed by the unique bear designs the artists created,” said Bears On Broadway Project Director Doneta Brotchie in the Winnipeg Free Press.

“We’ve got everything from the very whimsical to the highly artistic ones incorporating landscapes and Northern Lights. The range is amazing, everything from a biker bear to a football bear and a bear with wings. The artists involved proved that our home province talent is second to none.”

Thirty-two artists created the designs for the bears, 51 artists from across the Province of Manitoba worked on the bears’ colorful coats, and 72 companies assisted the production team. The creative group included students, muralists, sculptors, fabricators and painters. Artist participation in Bears on Broadway began with a competition for the bear designs, with 135 coming in. The key was to match up the artists with the sponsors.

Famed wildlife artist Clarence Tillenius, who was recently awarded the Order of Canada, painted Knights of the Polar Circle for the sponsoring Manitoba Club as well as Pondering Grizzly for Paterson Global Foods Inc. Other well-known names include Don Phalen, who has painted the Loony Bear for Scotia Bank, and artist Richard Osen, who fashioned a Road Safety Bear for MPIC. Osen also created the original seven-inch bear model and a mock-up in foam that led to two final molds into which Lafarge Cement experts poured huge quantities of cement, turning out ten bears a week.

Bears on Broadway Souvenir PosterThe awareness portion of the project was based on a successful program that was run in Australia,” said Brotchie. “The incidence of cancer has gone up three percent per year in Manitoba. If that keeps going up we won’t be able to handle it.

“So we thought about what we could do to reduce the incidence. In Australia, since introducing the awareness program the incidence of cancer has gone down 15 percent."

“This is an outstanding example of how public art efforts can do so much for our city,” said Mayor Sam Katz in a May 26 press release. “We are adding an interesting new dimension to one of our city’s outstanding historical vistas, and helping to create awareness for a great cause at the same time.”

The unique project was named one of the top-10 tourist attractions in Canada by Where Magazine. 

Plans are being made to locate the bears in “Bear Parks” when the project ends in late October. These special parks will be expected to provide public access, an ambience, a certain level security and maintenance of the art. Some sponsors have also decided to keep their bears.

The bears will continue to raise money through the sale of souvenirs such as crystal paper weights and key chainsglass bears and posters, while a soft cover book entitled “Bears On Broadway – A Love Affair in Concrete” is due out on Oct. 25, 2005. The book will be available on the McNally Robinson Web site.

For more information about Bears on Broadway please visit: or contact:

  • Barry McArton, Executive Director, CancerCare Manitoba Foundation - (204) 787-4177
  • Doneta Brotchie, Project Director - (204) 981-2157, E-Mail: [email protected]

For more information

For specific project examples and demonstrations, or more information on interactive displays, digital messaging systems and integrated donor wall projects, please contact Planned Legacy.

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