The bears sit patiently in a white paper bag. Made from various fabrics, the stuffed bears, although inanimate, appear to be waiting in anticipation in the Sharp HospiceCare office — waiting to be picked up by family members and friends of those who have passed. These memory bears are created as a way to keep the spirit of lost loved ones alive.
The bears are sewn by volunteers as part of Sharp HospiceCare’s memory bear program. The program is open to Sharp HospiceCare patients and their families, as well as the community.
Launched in 2002, the program was the brainchild of former Sharp HospiceCare volunteer coordinators Camelia Gower and Pam Kay. The two belonged to the same quilting guild.
“Every bear we sew is unique,” says Kay, who teaches the memory bear sewing class, a four-hour class for new memory bear volunteer sewers. “We’re turning these garments into these cuddly little things that you can hold close to your heart. It’s pretty great that we can give these to families who have lost someone.”
The life of a memory bear begins when a family visits Sharp HospiceCare to drop off garments belonging to a loved one who has passed. Given the popularity of the program, coupled with the care and love that goes into sewing each bear, it can take nearly five months to create one bear. When a bear is ready to go home, the family is notified to pick up the bear.
“It’s fun to be able to give your time, since people don’t necessarily have time to do direct patient care. And this is just a bonus for the families who have received care,” says Denise Kelly, Sharp HospiceCare volunteer coordinator.
Interested in having a memory bear made? Call 619-667-1939 for more information.