Grin and bearing it at Zephyer Cove Elementary School

It's all about being the bear, feeling the flow.

For the past three years, G. Pedro Kinner has been waking up before the sun so he can complete his morning errands, including dressing up in a bear costume to greet students at Zephyr Cove Elementary School.

Kinner, 52, began being the bear four years ago, but took a year off so another parent could give it a try. During that time his daughter, Karli, then in fourth grade, enjoyed a break from embarrassment.

Cubby, as Kinner is known, is unlike his cousins at Disneyland or the mall Easter Bunny. He talks to students and calls each by name.

"The best part are the little ones that come with mom and dad to drop off older brother and sister," Kinner said. "They are so excited when Cubby jumps in the car or on the hood and calls them by name and gets a high-five. They just can't wait to get old enough to go to school and see Cubby in the morning. That's why Cubby can't stop, kids are depending on him."

Four years ago, Kinner was volunteering at a Zephyr Cove classroom a couple days a week. William Robison, the principal at Zephyr Cove at the time, would occasionally dress up in the suit and greet students.

Kinner wanted to relieve some of the workload for Robison. He asked if he could give the bear a try.

"After a few times I realized how some supervision was needed at the parents drop-off zone each morning, then it became an every-day thing," Kinner said.

In the winter Kinner wears a sweatshirt underneath his costume. During warm temperatures in the fall and spring, the suit gets a bit smelly.

It does keep him warm during winter storms.

Kinner said he has a back-up suit when the original goes to the dry cleaners, but the substitute suit sheds.

The suit was bought several years ago by the school parents' club. Kinner dons it from 8:25 to 9:05 a.m. then takes it off for his job at Heavenly Ski Resort in the winter or doing roofing work during warmer weather. He also manages Kahle Community Park from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day but Tuesday.

"The best thing is I've got a great excuse for not getting to my jobs until Cubby has given his 300 hugs and 'have a great day' every morning," he said.

Chris Perdomo, who started her job as principal of Zephyr Cove Elementary this school year, said she never had a greeter such as Cubby in her 28 years of working in education.

"He's there every morning, knows every kid's name and he's a wonderful, positive start of every school day," Perdomo said. "Even the older kids love him."

As for Kinner, he doesn't expect to be handing over the bear's head anytime soon.

"Be the bear, it's something that comes from inside that makes you feel good, even when things are going crazy in your own life," he said. "Cubby has to be there in high spirits to pump the kids up even when they are down, tired, late, hungry or sick. You just have to get them going in the morning and turn them around."


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