teddy, teddy bear, knitted

Origin Story

I wrote this piece for the website of a dear friend who started a business “by accident”. Later, it was used by a regional magazine in their monthly “Entrepreneur” feature.

How I Became a Den Mother: The Founding of Bears to Cherish

It happened without my realizing it.

I created the first commemorative bear for a friend grieving the loss of her adult son. I used one of his t-shirts for the body, and when I gave it to her, my friend was deeply moved. That bear represented a tangible connection with him, a memory that she could touch and hold. A little seed of purpose was planted in my heart.

A second opportunity came along, and then a third. What a great little hobby I had here! I embraced each new bear with joy, and with every custom bear I created, my skills and techniques improved. Integrity is important to me; I never take shortcuts because I want each bear to be the absolute best. To me, they are each beautiful and unique.

I received a phone call in late November 2015 that changed my life. Julianne Arthur requested that I make seven custom bears – by Christmas! Her in-laws, Steve and Linda Arthur, had recently been lost in a tragic flash flood while hiking Zion National Park. Julianne wanted a bear for each grandchild, to be crafted from the souvenir t-shirts the Arthurs had collected during their travels. How could I say no? I wasn’t sure I could deliver, but I was determined to try.

To inspire my creativity I asked for photos of Steve and Linda, which I posted in my workroom. By the time the seventh bear was completed, just four short weeks later, I knew the people that had worn these garments. Their presence was with me throughout the process, and I was nearly overwhelmed by the experience of creating something so precious for their family. Without a doubt, these bears would live on long after they left my hands. I realized that I had the ability to bring an extraordinary level of comfort and connection to a family – what a gift! The seed of purpose that had been planted with the first bear was now firmly rooted.

At Julianne’s urging, I set up a Community Facebook page so other families could find me. I called my enterprise Bears to Cherish. Not long after, a profile about me in a local paper sparked dozens of requests for custom-made bears. My heart was so full! I met a representative from every family, learned about the person they had lost, and created a keepsake from the loved one’s clothing. In fact, I usually ended up making a bear for each member of the family!

My little enterprise continued to grow organically as families shared the stories of their bears. An in-depth article in a regional paper connected me with a wider community, and the response was tremendous. I crafted 80 bears during the next nine months. That’s when I realized I had become a den mother, putting my heart and soul into my offspring and sending them into the world to spread joy.

The next step was obvious, but I was afraid to take it. Even though the seedling was flourishing, I didn’t want to declare it a fully-fledged business because I feared losing the personal connection. But it became clear that this enterprise must continue – there was a steady demand for these one-of-a-kind keepsakes. And then I realized that as the business owner, I could control the process, thereby safeguarding the integrity of the mission. So at the beginning of year four, the Bears to Cherish website debuted: https://www.bearstocherish.com. A visit to the site provides a photo gallery (featuring the garments “before” and the keepsake bear “after”) along with personal stories submitted by clients, and of course, instructions for ordering your own keepsake bear.

I am certain that this is only the beginning of my journey, and that there is so much more to come. Bears to Cherish is a gift that I embrace every day. Discovering a talent that I didn’t know I had has given me a platform for growth, for connection, and for sharing my heart beyond anything I could have imagined. Out of a simple, sincere gift for a friend, a new business creating custom keepsake bears has evolved. The impact these personalized bears have had on the lives of others truly takes my breath away. I hope that my story inspires others to follow their own passions, because you never know where they will lead.