There have been polar bear sightings around Greater Binghamton in recent months.
It’s actually Austin the Arctic Bear visiting local businesses and bringing them a present of donuts.
This morning, he stopped in at the Harding Brooks Insurance Agency in Vestal.
Austin is the mascot for Arctic Bear Plumbing, Heating and Air.
He’s performed by 21-year-old Austin Kulp of Vestal who has Down Syndrome.
Arctic Bear owner Jason Ball knows Kulp through his work coaching Special Olympics.
When Kulp lost his job when the state closed down the sheltered workshops, Ball wanted to find something meaningful for him to do.
So, every Friday morning, Austin the Arctic Bear visits a different company along with his Direct Support Professional Jenna Shoemaker from the Southern Tier Independence Center. “They get so excited. The other day, we went to a factory. They took us around the factory, giving high fives to everyone. So, I think it’s bringing happiness to everyone that we go to and it just makes everyone’s day.”
Austin the Arctic Bear also makes other public appearances. “Being a bear all day long. We do it for a lot of hockey games during the season. Basketball games too.”
In fact, tomorrow night Austin the Arctic Bear will participate in Mascot Mania Night at the Binghamton Devils game.
Ball provides gift cards to pay for the donuts.
He says the business visits aren’t solely to Arctic Bear clients.
Instead, he lets whichever company hosts Austin choose where he’ll go the following week.