In the News
"Priorities: Food, Water, Shelter and Teddy Bears"
Western Oregon Journal
March 7, 2007
Do you remember the teddy bear you had when you were a little kid? The one you dragged around by its bedraggled little arm. The one your mom had to sew the eyes back on at least twice. The one you had to have with you when you spent the night at a friend's house. As we grew up, our teddy bears became less of a best friend and more of a keepsake to be stuffed away in a closet. However, just because we don't need our teddy bears to fall asleep anymore, that doesn't mean our love for them has vanished.
Several Western students have taken up knitting needles and crocheting hooks to bring this love to children in Africa who have been affected by HIV or AIDS through the Mother Bear Project, a non-profit group based out of Minneapolis. The project came to Western as a result of a shared interest between a Western student and professor during a physical education lecture. "I took PE 131 a couple of years ago. Dr. [Robert] Hautala was my professor for the lecture part of it. During his lecture I would crochet different projects. One day after class he told me that he knew how to crochet too. Since then, we've kept in touch," explained Western student Myk Rose, project coordinator. Hautala had learned about the project through his cousin and thought it would be fun to make this a campus wide thing, thinking that there were probably a number of people on campus who knew how to knit or crochet. A few weeks ago, Hautala contacted Rose and asked him if he wanted to be the student contact person for this project, Rose agreed and the Mother Bear Project was born at Western. So why teddy bears? After all, food and clothing would seem like it would serve more of a purpose. "All humans need some basic things to survive: food, water, shelter and the need to be loved. I think we often times forget about that one," explained Rose. "By sending these bears, we are showing them that there is someone in this big, wide world who cares about them and to show them that they aren't forgotten. Besides, who doesn't like a teddy bear?"
The patterns-either knit or crochet-for the bears are purchased for $5 on the Mother Bear Project website, www.motherbearproject.org, but because this is a campus-wide event project coordinators are allowed to give out the pattern for free. The first bear is free to send in, but after that Mother Bear asks that $3 be submitted for every bear to cover shipping costs. It is requested that each bearbuilder follow the pattern, but they can pick which triad of colors they wish to use and can be as realistic or fun as they want. At the meeting held March 2, 30 people-students and faculty-showed up to join the Mother Bear Project. Collectively, the group is hoping to send in around 100 bears by their April 13 deadline. The bears will then be on display in the library so students can go vote for their favorite bear. After that the bears will be boxed up and sent to the organization's headquarters for distribution. Students wishing to join the project can contact Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org or Hautala at email@example.com.
Patterns and additional specifications about the bears can also be obtained from them. Project coordinators ask bear-builders to include $3 for every bear they hand in. The Mother Bear Project is also looking for people who would be willing to donate used yarn. Not an advanced crocheter or knitter? No problem. "The patterns are super easy, so even if someone is a beginner, they can easily make a bear. It is made of simple, simple stitches," explained Rose. If you don't know how to crochet or knit and don't have the time to learn, the organization will gladly accept monetary donations to help defer the cost of shipping. Rose highly encourages everyone to get involved and help these children, "It is a great relief to snuggle up to a teddy bear after a bad day."