Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Staff of Westin Hollywood makes Holiday "Bear-able"

Those were the gasps of delicious delight as guests at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa made their way through the Hollywood hotel's enchanted lobby where this year there are nearly too many smiles to count.

Smiles that grace the face of bears – teddy bears!

On display was a two story 'bear' bedecked totally edible gingerbread house and a sprawling winter wonderland of a bear village which left guests beaming with holiday pride. While this holiday display was amazing, in actuality this unique sugar plum vision was all about helping children.

In a first ever hotel holiday partnership with CBS4's Neighbors 4 Neighbors, the Westin Diplomat Resort signed on to bring attention, and donations, to the Adopt- A- Bear campaign; an effort to put teddy bears in the hands of abused, neglected and traumatized children.

"It's unfortunate but all of us know somebody who is in need and you can't always do something or you want to do something and you don't know how to do it. This is a great opportunity for the Westin Diplomat to give our employees the opportunity to reach back to their own community," said Michelle Shulman, the Weston Diplomat's Public Relations Director who passionately wanted to showcase the Adopt-A-Bear campaign to the Hollywood community and beyond.

The artful masterpiece was an employee driven effort. Staff from all departments of the hotel donated hundreds of hours to build the holiday bear world and design cookies to raise hundreds dollars for donated teddy bears. The bears are handed out by judges and firefighters at a time when budgets for the bears were cut.

The hotel jumped in the help 'rescue' the bears and the scrumptious gingerbread house was the vision of a former White House Chef, Herny Martignago who serves as the Westin Diplomat's Executive Pastry Chef.

"We used 1,500 shingles, all pure ginger dough," he explained to CBS4's Michele Gillen with a beaming smile and heart filled with hope that the effort will touch the lives of many children.

Stephanie Thiboutot, the Westin Diplomat's Pastry Chef, agreed.

"The whole Christmas celebration is about making a child smile and this is a great cause for us to do," said Thiboutot who designed the tempting gingerbread cookies with the face of adorable teddy bear. Employees ate them up, literally, buying and selling thousands of dollars worth of cookies to help the cause.

"Together and to date we have raised over three thousand dollars," said Shulman.

With the help of those donations the Adopt-a-Bear campaign expanded into Hollywood where city fire fighters and rescue personnel said that their trucks would now be stocked with teddy bears for children they meet in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.

"This is for the children", said Rick Havey, who along with Lt. Kurt Ladwig, know how the bear is more significant than just being a toy. When they first meet the children, they don't forget what they see in their eyes.

"Fear. When you give them the bear they calm down. They know we are friends and it helps them trust us. It helps a lot," said Ladwig.

"Without question we have adopted the Adopt-A- Bear program," said Shulman proudly. "It's so easy to make an impact on a small person's life. We don't understand what it means to be that child in need.'

Taking on the very definition of giving, the staff of the "Diplomat," a fitting name for bear ambassadors, are making a difference for our littlest citizens.

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