20 years of Dayton's Santa Bears donated to children's hospital

For decades, one Minnesota couple made it a holiday tradition to go down to Dayton's department store to get the annual Santa Bear. They had plans to one day give the stuffed animals to their kids, but it turns out children weren't in the cards, so now a special group of kids will get a Christmas surprise.

“Once we weren't having kids anymore, it was like, okay, now what do we do? We've got all these bears," Sue Pittel said.

On 6 a.m. every Black Friday, Pittel would drag her husband down to Dayton's to snag the Santa Bear. The Christmas tradition dates back to 1987 At one point, Pittel turned down an offer of $2,500 for the entire collection. But next week, she'll give each and every one of them away for free to children’s hospital patients.

"If you're in a hospital at Christmas time, it's a scary place to be as a little kid,” Pittel said. “This way they have something they can cuddle up with in bed and not worry about the world."

And Sue Pittel knows exactly what a scary world that can be.

"I have been in the hospital way too many times,” she said. “I'm a stage 4 breast cancer patient and hospitals are going to be my future unless there is a cure for breast cancer."

So she’s clearing the clutter, giving thanks for the memories and passing on good cheer to those who need it more than her.

NOTE: The Santa Bear tradition survived the transition from Dayton's to Marshall Field's, but the stuffed bears were discontinued in 2007 when Macy's took over.