Utah’s ‘Grandma Bear’ delivers hundreds of repaired, stuffed animals to sick children
SALT LAKE CITY — In downtown Salt Lake, there is an apartment that is bursting at the seams with new family members.
There are the quadruplets: Tom, Bill, Henry, and Zephaniahs. And next to the piano is Giavanni, a concert pianist. There is Bonita, Sally, Aquavelda, Wanda, Dixie, and many, many more. Enough to fill every piece of furniture!
At the head of the family is Linda, better known as Grandma Bear. And what makes her family unique is they are actually all teddy bears.
“I had no idea I would lose my name, Linda Rae, to Grandma Bear, but so be it. It happened!” Linda explained, laughing.
Over the past two years, she has made over 2,500 personalized teddy bears. Each one has its own story and personality to go with its hand-tailored outfit and custom-designed quilt, all crafted by Grandma Bear.
“These are my children,” she lovingly said.
Linda takes them in, no matter their state. Tenderly picking one up, she noted, “this little moose has to have back surgery”.
Most of these teddy bears and animals are found in second-hand or discount stores. Grandma Bear takes them home and then, “I put them in the washing machine, dry them and brush them out, then sit them on my counter, and then I just stare at them, ‘What are you? What are you?'”
It’s as if the bears speak to her.
“This is Attikus. He decided that he wanted to go into space, and he picked out a vest, so we sewed on some spaceships.”
It’s a labor of love made bittersweet because these bears are only going to be living here for a short time.
“I will deliver them by the end of the week over at Ronald McDonald [House] and Primary Children’s [Hospital].”
They are destined to be adopted by boys and girls who need them most.
“And that’s hard and I miss them, and then I start all over again.”
Two years ago, it was actually Linda who needed these bears the most.
“Sometimes there isn’t a whole lot to smile about.”
She was having heart troubles, and her doctor told her she would be physically limited in what she could do.
“I couldn’t get off of the couch for two solid weeks. And I realized I was terribly depressed. And, at 83, I thought, I have no life at all.”
So Linda did what she had done her whole life in times of trouble, she turned to God.
“I rolled off the couch, got on my knees, said, ‘I need some inspiration. If you just want to give me one word, that would be fine.’ Well, the next day, he did – just ‘bears’, so then I recanted and I said, ‘how about a paragraph?’”
But then it came to her, she knew what she had to do and got to work.
“Creating something that will hopefully bring a smile to a little child’s face.”
After she drops off the bears, she isn’t able to see them given to the children, but she hears stories and knows they are making a difference. Because they aren’t bears you will find in a store, they are made with love; grandma’s special love.
“I’ve just found something that I can do with the health conditions that I have. I can still reach out and touch other people’s lives.”
Grandma Bear funds this all out of her own pocket and with the help of donations and nonprofits such as The Oliver Fund. If you would like to donate, you can visit their website.
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