Aug 26, 2010

8/10: On becoming a Memory Bear ...

One of the questions I get when people find out I make Memory Bears has to do with how to people request the bears and how to they get to a volunteer to be sewn together. 

The person requesting a bear fills out the form you see on the left. (Clicking the picture will enlarge it). This is important for the Hospice Volunteer office staff and the person making the bear. The staff needs a way of tracking the bears from when the request comes in until it is delivered to the person requesting it. The person making the bear needs to know just what they have in mind when they think of the bear. Do they want a certain part of the fabric to be on the bear? Do they want a collar or a pocket used? Do they want buttons or embellishments on the garment used on the bear? We have guidelines we must use but the person requesting the bear does have some options if they want them. 

The most important part of the form in my opinion is the middle where the requester fills in who they are, who it's in memory of, what their relationship is to the deceased person and what the garment means to them. This gives the volunteer a little knowledge about the person they are honoring and it's very special to know. I have made bears for special dads, loving moms, brothers and sisters. As I make them, I feel the emotion they have for their loved one and I have the desire to make this unique bear as special as possible for that person. I know they loved the living soul and I want them to feel that love when they hold their bear. I imagine all the volunteers feel this way when they make a bear. It's a sacred thing.
The staff at the office put the fabric(s) and request forms in a plastic bag and place them in a closet. They are put in the order they are received with the oldest one on the top left and the most recent request on the bottom right. Please click this picture to enlarge it so you can see all the different colors and textures of the bears-to-be. There are blankets, sheets, shirts, blouses, full outfits ... in fact one of those bags called my name while I was taking this picture. See the second row, fourth bag from the right? The yellow is a tie with stick-figure children on it and a shirt and slacks are also in that bag. It's going to be a great bear and whoever wore that tie had to be a great guy. It will be a happy bear to make! I didn't pick it up because I have  bears waiting to be made for close friends.
After a bear is completed (and we try to do that within a few weeks of picking up the makings), the staff checks them in (remember the form we started with!) and processes them for delivery or pickup. They check them over to make sure they are ready and sometimes have to do a little repair work. This is why we return all the scraps, too! 
Then they tie a bow around the bear's neck with a tag that says who the bear was made for and the first name of the person who made the bear. They wrap it up in blue tissue paper and lovingly place in the bag to go home. Along with the bear is a beautiful card and an envelope offering the person the opportunity to make a donation to Sharp Hospice if they are so inclined. The bears are made at no charge and the donation is purely voluntary. Donations go towards supplies to make more bears!

The last two pictures are the bags of bears that were waiting to be delivered or picked up the day I took these pictures. You can see there are lots of them. Between the bears waiting to be made and the bears waiting for their new owners, I'd say there were well over 100 bears. Those bears were put together by approximately 30 regular volunteers.
Soon I will ask a few other volunteers to share their stories about making these bears. I find inspiration from those who started this long before I did.

I know a few people who have been the recipient of a Memory Bear and I'd like to share with you how they feel about the bear they have. I have heard a few stories and they are heartwarming They help me know for sure I am doing something worthwhile and helping make memories last forever.


  1. It's wonderful that there are so many people who are willing to give of their time to do these projects Laurie. I love that you can do this. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I have never heard of such a project, but I think this is about the most wonderful thing I have ever heard of. This is really neat. This is the kind of project I would love to get involved in someday. Thanks for sharing.