Centennial Valley residents are adding a fun twist to social distancing while also encouraging their neighbors to stay active and spend quality time with their children while quarantined at home.

Conway resident Rachel Batesmon reached out to her neighbors using a neighborhood app and encouraged others in Centennial Valley to set out teddy bears and other plush toys so that area children could take part in a “bear hunt.”

Conway Police Department spokesman LaTresha Woodruff is among the residents who have joined in on the fun.

“Residents of Centennial Valley in Conway are giving kids in the neighborhood a little something to do,” she told the Log Cabin Democrat. “Dozens of folks have put stuffed animals either in windows, outside of their homes or somewhere visible so that when children are walking in the neighborhood to get a bit of fresh air from isolation, they are essentially on a safari.”

Because the plush animals are scattered throughout the neighborhood, children are able to participate in the scavenger hunt while also practicing social distancing.

The hunt keeps the children engaged and active, Woodruff said.

“The object is for children to look out for animals somewhere along the walk and count how many that they find and what they are,” she said. “This is simply to give kids a bit of adventure while we go through these difficult times. It’s certainly hard for children to stay inside so a nice walk turns into a safari.”

Jessica Havard, who also lives in Centennial Valley, said the activity took off quickly with a tremendous response from the surrounding community.

Those who don’t have a teddy bear on hand have placed various plush animals including turtles, elephants, Pokemon characters and more, in their windows and on their doorsteps “to give the kids something different to look at,” she said.

The bear hunt is a creative way to bring the community together and add some fun to residents’ daily walks, she said.

“I think people are willing to do whatever they can to help make this time bearable,” Havard told the Log Cabin. “It’s tough, and we’re all going through this.”

Taking part in the scavenger hunt and setting out animals to add to the list allows the neighborhood to come together as one.

Resident Laurie Smith said her family has also joined in on the fun.

Her daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter had visited from Houston, Texas, when they decided to extend their stay. The Conway woman’s daughter did not want to risk traveling back home as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened.

Now that the family is quarantined together in Smith’s Conway home, they have decided to do their part in bringing smiles to neighborhood children participating in the bear hunt.

“It’s a way where, if it doesn’t rain, we can get out with our families and walk while also practicing social distancing and giving the younger ones something fun to look for,” she said. “It brings joy and a smile to our community as we try to navigate this pandemic.”

Smith said her 2-year-old granddaughter has enjoyed looking for plush animals throughout the neighborhood.

The activity that began bringing cheer to those in Centennial Valley is spreading to other subdivisions across town as well.

“Everyone was really excited about participating and said they would spread the word,” Smith said, adding that she was happy to see elderly couples and families with teenagers also taking part. “And it’s not just Centennial. What we’re beginning to hear is other neighborhoods are starting bear hunts, too. It’s a great thing for all of us to participate in.”

Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at mhicks@thecabin.net.

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