RV Park Residents Make Teddy Bears for Kids

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February 4, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The teddy bears aren’t on parade. The ladies sewing group at the High Chaparral RV Park in Casa Grande, Ariz., has bigger plans for them, Tri Valley Central reported.

“We just dropped 97 off at Horizon Human Services a couple of days ago,” said group leader Marlene Clement.

The teddy bears go to children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect, Clement said. The bears meet the children at the emergency shelter or foster homes.

“When they go to these foster homes, they don’t have anything but the clothes on their back,” she said. “It breaks your heart.”

The sewing group connected with Horizon two years ago, he added. The group also makes teddy bears for Casa Grande Regional Medical Center. They go to all the kids in the hospital, including those in urgent care, Clement said.

In addition, Clement said, Pinal County sheriff’s deputies will use them to calm upset children on domestic-violence calls.

So the demand is there. And High Chaparral Ladies Sewing Group works hard to meet it.

“Last year, they made almost 550 in the season,” Clement said.

That season includes the cooler months, when High Chaparral — like every RV park in the area — is populated by winter residents. On a recent Thursday, two groups of women worked on the bears. They had set up something of a teddy bear assembly line.

Eileen Alverson of Spooner, Wis., and Marlene Oleson of Royalton, Minn., set down paper teddy bear patterns along strips of cloth. They cut out what will make two halves of a teddy. Women will take these home and sew them together, leaving a small opening. The partially sown teddies end up at the table near the door of the High Chaparral activity center.

Not everyone in the center was focused on teddy bears. Chairs had already been set up for the Thursday night jam session. In a far corner, a poker game was going on. It seemed friendly enough.

Near the door, however, teddy bears were undergoing final assembly. Five members of the sewing group stuffed teddies and sewed them up. A couple of the women took handfuls of cottonlike white stuffing and filled each teddy until it was good and cuddly. The others sewed up the opening.

Lastly, they placed a little heart-shaped tag on each one that said, “You are special.”

The finished products are simple bears without buttons for eyes, but they give comfort to the children who receive them, Clement said.

She first got the idea of teddies for kids some 10 years ago.

“I have a lady friend in Illinois,” Clements said. “She and I had done crafts for many years, and she presented the pattern to me. I just liked the idea and we just ran with that with our group.”

At the time, Clement was living at Quail Run, another area RV park. With her encouragement, the ladies at Quail Run began making the teddy bears. She left them a teddy legacy. The Quail Run sewing group still makes the teddies, she added.

At High Chaparral, the women seated near the door began placing finished teddies into plastic bags. The teddies will go where they’re needed. Some teddies at Horizon will be used for therapy bears to help emotionally troubled children, and even adults.

Horizon’s Alicia Alvarez says children can cuddle with the bears. The bears, in turn, offer companionship.

"We tell the kids, this is your friend. You can tell him things,” Alvarez said. “If you’re angry, you can tell him why.”

The teddies helped make Christmas a little more cheerful for children at a Dec. 18 Christmas party thrown by the Horizon Human Services family-support staff.

“We took 74 to them for their Christmas party,” Clement said. “Every child got a gift.”

The sewing group, it happens, does more than make teddies. Women also create apparel to ease — if just a bit — the hardship of undergoing cancer treatment, which can cause hair loss. The group makes colorful head coverings. They help patients “look better and feel better about themselves,” Clement wrote in a news release about the sewing group.

All told, the group will make a combined thousand teddies and head coverings between September and April. Members buy all their own material. They get some donations at a few High Chaparral events. That includes a January jam session, when park management allows them to pass the hat. But if anybody else wants to chip in, Clement would welcome donations of time, materials or money. She can be reached on her cell phone at (815) 222-7459.

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