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Hospice of Santa Barbara creates bears for lost loved ones

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A daughter’s old dress, and a mother’s beautiful blouse that will never be worn again, now hold a special healing purpose for those grieving a loss.

Volunteer sewers at Hospice of Santa Barbara are preserving lifetime memories.

“It’s for two daughters, who lost their mother … a young woman so this is especially heart wrenching," said volunteer Mary Vickers of Hospice of Santa Barbara.

It's especially heart wrenching for Kathy Valencia whose late daughter gave birth on Easter Day of this year.

“My daughter had a baby, a beautiful baby girl on Easter morning and unfortunately, the day after Easter, my daughter sadly passed away. we have a beautiful three month old who is healthy and happy ... and my daughter also leaves behind a nine and a half year old," said Valencia.

Valencia stopped by Hospice of Santa Barbara to pick up teddy bears for her granddaughters.

“I’m just so excited to go home and give these pairs to the girls so that they know that their mommy wore these clothes and now they’re a bear that they can hug and think of their mom," said Valencia.

Mary Lenhard of Santa Barbara just lost her husband to ALS.

“Te had it for about 3 years. Wayne got hit with the diaphragm … he had to be on a ventilator," said Lenhard.

For many like Valencia and Lenhard, when their grievance seemed unbearable, Hospice of Santa Barbara stepped in.

“One of the issues is when somebody dies you don’t really know what to do with the clothing … you can donate some but then there’s some favorite pieces … so we offer a service to our clients," said volunteer services coordinator Sally Turvey of Hospice of Santa Barbara.

Known as the Beloved Bear Program, volunteers hand-sew teddy bears out of their loved ones clothing, infused with memories, texture, and even the familiar comforting scent of their loved one.

"So these bears are for comfort," said Lenhard.

"My daughter also leaves behind a 9 1/2 year-old who is thriving and loves stuffy animals ... so I just can’t wait to get home and give her these pairs," said Valencia.

"I lost my father 30 years ago ... I have a bear in my possession and it helps me remember him," said Vickers.

The Beloved Bear Program has handed out hundreds of these stuffed animals since 2010.

The demand for the bears rises each year.

“We’re busy right now. iIthink we’re already up to ... I want to say over 25 right now, so yeah … it will easily get to 40," said Turvkey.

By keeping the beloved bears close by, Hospice of Santa Barbara hopes those grieving can cherish and cuddle the love of their lives forever.

For more information on bereavement resources log onto:

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Patricia Martellotti

Patricia Martellotti is a reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Patricia, click here.


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