FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — It all started with a purple bear.
When Dee McCrea’s mother died last Christmas, McCrea immortalized her mother by turning her clothes into stuffed bears, which she then gave to family members to help remember her. The bear McCrea kept was made from a pair of her mother’s pajamas, with a pink ribbon around the neck and pink flower-shaped buttons.
A year later, members of Stitch and Chatter, a sewing and fellowship group at Bethel United Methodist that McCrea attended, were trying to figure out what their group project should be. In past years, they’d just brought bits of sewing that they had as personal projects.
“We found we really needed a purpose,” McCrea tells The News-Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1yJPfpf ). “One of those was to bless others by giving them tangible evidence that they were loved and cared for.”
Their search eventually culminated with a project to create teddy bears to give to participants in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk taking place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Parkview Field, 1301 Ewing St.
In recent years, Stitch and Chatter came together to produce items that could be given as gifts to those who needed comfort. They made prayer shawls and knitted hats for stillborn babies and pink scarves to be given as gifts at breast cancer walks.
McCrea remembers how this touched the lives of recipients.
“One of our members had gone to a funeral, and the lady who had died had asked to be buried in one of the scarves she’d received from our group at a breast cancer relay,” McCrea recalls. “That’s how much this meant to her.”
This year, they decided to do pink bears for Saturday’s breast cancer relay.
“The idea came about because we wanted to do something to benefit breast cancer survivors,” she says. “My daughter is a breast cancer survivor, and that combined with the idea of the bears I had made in memory of my mom. I brought the pattern I used (to a Stitch and Chatter meeting), and one of the girls transposed it so that it was a bit smaller. The idea just snowballed from there.”
McCrea searched everywhere for the right fabric. They wanted to use fleece, but they couldn’t find the right kind at any of the fabric stores in town. Finally, a worker at one store pointed McCrea to Pico Textiles, which carried the fabric they wanted.
“We ordered it online — 60 yards of fabric!” she remembers. “It came in this huge box, and we started right away.”
With the help of five other women, McCrea sewed the bodies of the bears together.
“We’d cut them out of a pattern and sew the bodies together on a machine, leaving the backs open. The pattern involved two pieces that we’d cut the fabric from — the arm and leg pieces just folded over, so there weren’t a lot of seams. We’d take them to the Stitch and Chatter meetings, and the kids there would stuff them. We tried to get a good ratio of stuffing so that they’d be cuddly to hold. Then the older kids would sew the backs up by hand.”
Buttons for eyes and black thread noses were sewn on by the Stitch and Chatter group as well. According to McCrea, about 20 people had a hand in producing the bears. They started sewing in late June and finished Sept. 1. They will hand out the bears to participants during Saturday’s walk.
“Having something like this means so much for the patients,” she says. “It’s like the scarves we did — we can’t really predict how they’ll impact a person long-term, but it’s great to show (them that) people care.
“A lot of people raise money for this and it’s a great cause and a great thing they do, don’t get me wrong,” she adds, “but for people to just get a little gift like this that’s personal means so much. We try to show that we do care and love them.”
McCrea feels a special calling for projects like this, particularly since it’s impacted her family.
“You have to make the best of the time you’re given and use the talents God gives you to bless others,” she says. “So we try and take this talent and use that to help where we can.”
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